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The Castaways of Tanagar

Short Stories
A few starships had set out from Earth before civilization ended. One of them found a new world, created a new home for mankind, an ideal intellectual society on Tanagar. Humane, its deviants and criminals were sent into space in deep freeze forever....

But then came the rediscovery of Earth, a world now far different from that of the star-voyaging days. And the only explorers with guts enough to face that terrifying old world were the very criminals who could not abide Tanagar.

This is the powerful novel of those castaways, outcast from Utopia, who were sent to work out Utopia's dark plots against the struggling descendants of those who remained behind.

Cover art by H.R. Van Dongen

Published in 1981 by DAW.

Dedicated to Sheila

Review by Ian Braidwood

Cast of Characters:
Cheron Felix, Teresa Janeat, Cyriac Salvador, Vito Talvar, Sarid Jerome, Qapel, Baya Undi, Midas, Spektros, Mondo, Cpt Donsella ti Ria, Toran Zeyer, Alaric da Lancha, M'Lise, Gy'liu, Or'u'um, Gedeon Macabel, Immanuel Spiridion Raban la Cabral, Vianna Cascorial.

In outward appearance The Castaways of Tanagar looks a lot like The Realms of Tartarus: a thick volume, crammed with text and split into titled sections. These similarities can't help but give you a sense of anticipation, but unfortunately Castaways isn't anywhere near as successful as Realms in realising them.

Initially, things look promising. The story begins as Cheron Felix awakes aboard the Sabreur, a Tanagaran starship taking its passengers on a mission to the recently rediscovered Earth.

Felix is a murderer who had been sentenced to languish in suspended animation indefinitely; but after thousands of years, he and a few others have been resuscitated, so they can explore the Earth's surface. Interestingly, Cheron's punishment is severe, because his was a crime of passion; if it had been a calculated act of assassination, he would have been treated with more leniency - an inversion of the norm typical of Brian.

While still on board the Sabreur, the landing party is prepared by having skills and knowledge fed into their brains as they sleep. This allows Brian to introduce the idea that, by bypassing Felix's conscious editing process, the Tanagarans have changed him as a person - a theme, which will reappear later in the story.

Once Cheron is transferred to the Earth's surface, the tone of the novel changes completely.

Though not particularly heavy to begin with, the story suddenly turns into a light adventure as Felix is conscripted into the Macarian army and transported across land. There are then some incidents and a close study of the various prejudices displayed by the native Earthers.

The tone stays this way for quite some time until quite suddenly, Brian slams down two chapters of almost pure discourse; effectively an essay on the history and sociological development of Tanagaran society. The affect of this is to totally unbalance the novel and I wouldn't be at all surprised if many readers put the book down there and then.

It turns out that the Tanagarans are descendants of the crew and colonists of Marco Polo, a generation starship, which left Earth in search for a new world. At the outset, the crew didn't know how long their voyage would last and so they tried to set up a social system which would last for millennia if necessary.

The model of the perfect state they used was that described in Plato's Republic, but they also used mind exercises and somatic engineering to enhance the natural tendencies Socrates proposed. This split the proto-Tanagarans into three groups: intels, prags and sensuals, which are roughly analogous to Plato's guardians, auxiliaries and craftsmen. If you don't bare this in mind as you read it, the point of Castaways will sail right past you.

There is no doubt that The Castaways of Tanagar is seriously flawed, but it still has ambitions and there is a lot in here to interest the Stableford fan.

The Brian Stableford Website