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Mother of Demons by Eric Flint
Cover art by Larry Elmore
Published by Baen Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
It was humanity's greatest endeavor -- a ship that would take humans to the stars. Everything had been carefully worked out, down to the proper mixture of skills and of genetics represented in the passengers, in order to form a stable, sustainable colony. But when they arrived at the world of Ishtar everything went wrong.
There was barely enough time to evacuate the children and a few key adults before the ship crashed. The humans are now hopelessly stranded with little more than the clothes they stand in. All their food, supplies, seedstocks, and the other myriad other items for the creation of the colony have vanished in a nuclear fireball. And the local flora and fauna are all either indigestable or hopelessly poisonous. Those who escaped a quick death by explosion now face a slow death by agonizing starvation.
That is, until they connect with indigenous intelligences who dwell on the high plateau that has become their refuge. The owoc are giant land squids whose thought processes are utterly unlike those of humans, who use no tools and whose language is exceedingly difficult to master. But by some dint of good fortune, the humans never tried to prey upon them, even in their most desperate straits, so friendship is iminently possible -- and it happens by sheer chance, when a starving child happens to put on a garment of the color the owoc hatchlings use to communicate hunger and approaches these enormous beings. His reward is a gush of predigested food from the owoc's fore-stomach, which proves to be eminently digestable to humans.
But the gentle owoc are not the only intelligences on the world of Ishtar. Their evolutionary kinfolk, the gukuy, are a warlike Bronze Age people, divided into many quarrelling city-states. And some of them consider owoc to be a great delicacy.
But things aren't always so simple as they seem, for among the gukuy a prophet has arisen, who preaches the importance of cherishing all life, and particularly all intelligence. Meanwhile, an even more rapacious tribe of gukuy is coming from across the deadly swamps, cannibals who force their prisoners of war to eat their fallen fellows in order to be incorporated into their tribe.
Things are about to get very interesting.
Click here to order Mother of Demons in mass-market paperback.
Review posted April 10, 2003
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