Support Books Under the Bridge

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Pilgrim

A recent find from the used bookstore: Way of the Pilgrim by Gordon Dickson, an author I'd not actually heard of before.

It's very easy to summarize: aliens have invaded earth, and the resistance movement seeks a leader.

In many ways, this was a great book. The aliens, the Aalaag, are shown to be different from humans -- most sci-fi has aliens that act like humans wearing funny suits. Not so in this novel; every time the main character, Shane Evert, thinks he understands his master, he suddenly learns that he didn't understand them at all. And Shane is by far the most able to understand the aliens: as a natural polyglot, he speaks the Aalaag language almost fluently. The rest of the humans, and particularly the resistance movement, are laughably ignorant about the Aalaag's intentions and motivations.

That interplay between what-is-human and what-is-alien was really neat to see.

I also enjoyed the slow process by which Shane was drawn into the fight against the Aalaag. He, more than any other human, understands that such a fight cannot be won, and only slowly does he decide that the fight is worth making.

In other ways, the novel was a bit flat. The personalities are... dull. Dickson's treatment of women characters was juvenile; this was written in 1999? It reads more like a 1950's novel -- we can overlook subtle (or not) misogyny in novels from less-enlightened times (Heinlein, anyone?), but for a novel published less than a decade ago? Baffling.

I enjoyed the novel, but I'd recommend it mostly for light reading.

No comments: