The Keith Laumer and Rosel George Brown 1966 collaboration Earthblood is a standalone space opera.
Although Roan’s adopted father Raff was only a mutant human, and his adopted mother Bella a lowly Yill. Roan himself was a true-blooded pure-strain Terran—something not seen in the galaxy since the Imperial Terran Navy was swept from the skies by the Niss, five thousand years earlier. Where Roan came from, and how he found his way to a backwater world like Tambool, neither Raff nor Bella can guess. What they do know is they love their adopted son and intend to raise him as best they can.
But in a galaxy populated by mutants and aliens, can there be room for even one true human?
Shanghaied by a travelling circus, Roan loses the only family he has ever known. Return is impractical (and as he eventually learns, pointless). Having no choice, Roan settles on a new goal: find lost Terra and carve out a niche for a true Son of Earth.
Chance puts the circus in the path of a remnant of the Imperial Terran Navy, now become little more than racist pirates. To Roan, the ITN is a tool to be used: it is his means of scouring the galaxy for his people’s lost homeworld . The endless wars in which he engages and the deaths of his friends and lovers are an acceptable cost if he can find Terra.
Roan may not live long enough to find Earth: humans of his kind are short-lived—thanks to biology, even if they manage not to stumble over any of the ancient Niss battle cruisers still drifting between the stars.
And even if he lives long enough to find Terra, even if he manages to find a way through the blockade around the planet, the future may not unspool as he has fantasized. He may be pure strain human, but that’s of little worth on a planet full of them. To the Terran upper classes, Roan may seem a barbaric interloper.
A Lower, fit only for slavery.
This book made me sad for at least two reasons. The first is that it’s not particularly good; the second is that both of the authors came to lamentable ends. Brown’s promising career was cut short at age forty-one by lymphoma. Laumer suffered a debilitating stroke at age forty-six. He survived for another twenty-one years, but his ability to write coherently did not. A few editors, in particular Jim Baen, were still willing to buy Laumer’s books, but the quality of Laumer’s writing never recovered.
Earthblood is set in the same universe as Laumer’s Bolo and Retief stories. At least, it’s set in a universe that shares important features with both the Corps Diplomatique Terrestrienne andConcordiatstories. It’s is a sad capstone to the Bolo stories. Retief… well, there’s nothing problematic in this violent little novel that was not also present in the Retief stories.
The defining characteristic of Roan’s galaxy is bigotry and mutual loathing. Every species looks down on all the others. The humans, the race who gave all the other races starflight, manage to take this even further, despising mutants and half-breeds. Roan may have been singled out for bullying as a kid by the young aliens around him, but what he suffered is minor compared to what humans do to each other.
The one saving grace of the book is that while all the characters buy into the myth of the Mighty Terrans, Greatest of All Races (Except Maybe the Niss), the book itself doesn’t really support the myth. There may not be an empire any more, but the system that exists seems to function well enough without one. Roan’s mutant dad and alien mom were willing to die for him. His alien friends were no less loyal than his human allies (granted, not a high bar) and his alien lovers more sincere than the vapid, decadent women of Terra. The humans we meet are bullies and bigots. Some of them are bloodthirsty pirates. Roan spends too many years looking for his people’s great heritage. The legacy he finds waiting for him is worthy only of destruction.
It’s a sad book all round. Not recommended; seek out one of Laumer’s better books or one of Brown’s.
1: When we read Lost Earth stories, we must postulate terrible maps and incredible historical ignorance. They cannot find earth? Very early in the novel, we are told that Roan and company are just ninety light-years from the Solar System. Ninety light years is nothing on a galactic scale.