Monday, July 12, 2010

Mother of Demons

By Eric Flint

The people from Earth set out to explore a new planet. But something went very wrong. Some managed to land on the planet in the ship's lifeboats but the ship itself and the supplies were destroyed. So the people are stranded with no hope of rescue for hundreds of years. Worse, they discover that all the animals are toxic to them and the plant life, while edible, makes them ill. Still, they manage to survive. Barely.
The animal life on the planet seems to be solely based on mollusk-type creatures, most commonly slugs, snails and something that is similar to squids except adapted to life on land. In the place where the humans landed are very large squid-ish animals; peaceful, slow grazers. Like earth squids, these land squids have the ability to change the color of their skin in a kind of emotional code to their fellow squids. One day, one of the human children wanders into the vicinity of one of the squids, wearing a garment of the same color that the creature's offspring use to signal hunger. The squid feeds the child by regurgitating into its mouth. It doesn't take the humans long to figure out that the squid vomit is the only thing humans can eat on the planet without becoming ill. They also figure out that the squids are mildly intelligent and soon a system is in place where the humans plant and grow the crops the squids like to eat and the squids repay them by feeding the humans.
It soon becomes clear that these squids are not the only squids. There are other, smarter, carnivorous, dangerous squids. And these squids are intent on capturing and enslaving or eating the good, gentle squids. So the humans find themselves embroiled in tribal warfare to protect the squids that are vital to human survival. But what ultimate effect will contact with the more technologically advanced humans have on the bronze-age population of the intelligent, aggressive squids who became the allies of the humans in their war to protect the gentle, grazing squids and the brutal, enslaving enemy squids?

Despite its intriguing premise, this book is mainly about battles. Squid vs squid, squid vs human, with a lot of lectures about human history included. I found it rather dry going. Descriptions of battles have never interested me. I also found the idea of people living on squid-puke just disgusting. And the long discourses on history and religion and biology were too much like reading a text book.

And just a note: the demons in the title refers to the humans. The squids think the humans must be demons because they are so strange looking.

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