Monday, December 20, 2010
By Mike Resnick
Set a few hundred years in the future, this is the story of a man obsessed with an idea. He wants to go back to a time before Europeans came to Africa and introduced their knowledge and practices and changed Africa and its people forever.
Koriba and other like-minded Africans are given the chance to live out their tribal dream on a terraformed planetoid made to resemble old Africa. Here they will live as primitives, relying on Koriba, their witch doctor, to protect them from sickness, famine and predators instead of modern knowledge and technology. They will live in little round huts and raise cattle and goats and chickens and grow subsistence crops. Men will own the women and the women will do most of the work and serve the men. But they are not completely on their own, because Koriba has a computer terminal in his hut that allows him to communicate with "Maintenance." He uses this communication to control his people, arranging for timely rains and for droughts when he is angry at them.
At first, it goes pretty good. "Maintenance" gets upset though when Koriba kills a baby because it was a breach birth, which was the custom among the Kikuyu. They also put their old people out to be eaten by the hyenas and also if a twins are born, one is killed because it doesn't have a soul, or some such superstition. But Koriba, who is an educated man masquerading as a savage, knows that bureaucracy is slow to act and he figures he will have his people trained to resist any inroads Maintenance may attempt.
So his people are living the old timey life and Koriba is happy. But then one of the kids gets access to his computer and discovers a whole world of knowledge and that is the beginning of the end. Because Koriba and the other founders are getting old and the new generation is not content to conform to the old ways, especially as information about modern life continues to contaminate Koriba's little "paradise."
Koriba is a fanatic, a liar, a hypocrite, rigid and uncompromising. He is a creep. He is so dedicated to his fantasy that he has lost all perspective. He is not an appealing character. But even though I despised the main character, I still found the book very interesting. It is a science fiction story, but it is really about how modern ways changed tribal communities, but not to the better according to Koriba. I also enjoyed Koriba's parables which were amusing and illuminating and designed to support his beliefs, of course, but still very entertaining. So I may have hated Koriba but I really liked the book.