TheKeith Laumer and Rosel George Brown 1966 collaboration Earthbloodisa standalone space opera.
AlthoughRoan’s adopted father Raff was only a mutant human, and his adoptedmother Bella a lowly Yill. Roan himself was a true-bloodedpure-strain Terran — something not seen in the galaxy since theImperial Terran Navy was swept from the skies by the Niss, fivethousand years earlier. Where Roan came from, and how he found hisway to a backwater world like Tambool, neither Raff nor Bella canguess. What they do know is they love their adopted son and intend toraise him as best they can.
Butin a galaxy populated by mutants and aliens, can there be room foreven one true human?
Shanghaiedby 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 andcarve out a niche for a true Son of Earth.
Chanceputs 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 atool to be used: it is his means of scouring the galaxy for hispeople’s lost homeworld . The endless wars in which he engagesand the deaths of his friends and lovers are an acceptable cost if hecan find Terra.
Roanmay not live long enough to find Earth: humans of his kind areshort-lived — thanks to biology, even if they manage not to stumbleover any of the ancient Niss battle cruisers still drifting betweenthe stars.
Andeven if he lives long enough to find Terra, even if he manages tofind a way through the blockade around the planet, the future may notunspool as he has fantasized. He may be pure strain human, but that’sof little worth on a planet full of them. To the Terran upperclasses, Roan may seem a barbaric interloper.
ALower, fit only for slavery.
Thisbook made me sad for at least two reasons. The first is that it’snot particularly good; the second is that both of the authors came tolamentable ends. Brown’s promising career was cut short at ageforty-one by lymphoma. Laumer suffered a debilitating stroke at ageforty-six. He survived for another twenty-one years, but his abilityto write coherently did not. A few editors, in particular Jim Baen,were still willing to buy Laumer’s books, but the quality ofLaumer’s writing never recovered.
Earthbloodisset in the same universe as Laumer’s Bolo and Retief stories. Atleast, it’s set in a universe that shares important features withboth the CorpsDiplomatique Terrestrienne andConcordiatstories.It’s is a sad capstone to the Bolo stories. Retief… well, there’snothing problematic in this violent little novel that was not alsopresent in the Retief stories.
Thedefining characteristic of Roan’s galaxy is bigotry and mutualloathing. Every species looks down on all the others. The humans, therace who gave all the other races starflight, manage to take thiseven further, despising mutants and half-breeds. Roan may have beensingled out for bullying as a kid by the young aliens around him, butwhat he suffered is minor compared to what humans do to each other.
Theone saving grace of the book is that while all the characters buyinto the myth of the Mighty Terrans, Greatest of All Races (ExceptMaybe the Niss), the book itself doesn’t really support the myth.There may not be an empire any more, but the system that exists seemsto function well enough without one. Roan’s mutant dad and alienmom were willing to die for him. His alien friends were no less loyalthan his human allies (granted, not a high bar) and his alien loversmore sincere than the vapid, decadent women of Terra. The humans wemeet 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’sa sad book all round. Not recommended; seek out one of Laumer’sbetter books or one of Brown’s.
1:Whenwe read Lost Earth stories, we must postulate terrible maps andincredible historical ignorance. They cannot find earth? Very earlyin the novel, we are told that Roan and company are just ninetylight-years from the Solar System. Ninetylight years is nothing on a galactic scale.