Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Fresco

By Sheri S. Tepper

Aliens have discovered Earth. It is quite a mixed bag of aliens, though. Some want to help us. Some want to eat us. But the ones who want to help us mainly want human beings to straighten out and be good neighbors to each other. It seems that neighborliness is the requirement for joining the galactic union. But neighborliness doesn't come easy for human beings. So the friendly aliens go about imposing their vision of proper human society upon the Earth. Jerusalem vanishes and now no one can fight over it 'cause it ain't there no more! Oppressive Muslim males suddenly find their women changed into ugly old men. And towards the end of the book, alcoholics can no longer tolerate booze, one sip makes them vomit. Human don't so much learn to be neighborly as have it forced upon them by the aliens as the aliens infiltrate the atmosphere with their invisible control mechanisms and chemicals. And that's the happy ending. The sad ending is leaving humanity to deal with its own problems and being turned into game animals to be hunted by the bad aliens, with the added promise that the predator aliens would not be allowed to exterminate us. Take about being between a rock and a hard place. Mind control versus being hunted for sport.

I did enjoy this book a lot. I thought the nice aliens were interesting even if rather creepy with their mind control and their parasitism. One race of aliens implants their eggs in the bodies of host animals and it turns out middle-aged, conservative men make ideal hosts. Those are the good aliens. The bad aliens are just a bunch of blood-thirsty killers who want to turn the Earth into a giant game park with humans as their main target. As they point out, there is a surfeit of humans on the Earth and they would be doing us a favor by thinning the herd.
Tepper imposes a new order on the world, taking away freedom of choice and using mind control to keep people from realizing what they have lost. It's a creepy and frightening vision, and one that doesn't appeal to me. So I didn't find her happy ending to be very happy but I still enjoyed the story even if I don't agree with her solution for humanities many ills.

For another review, check out http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue160/fresco_rev.html.

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