Search This Blog

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Uller Uprising (Science Fiction)

By H. Beam Piper 

Publisher: Ace, 1st printing (June 1, 1983).

Softcover, 157 pages

“As planets went, Uller was no bargain, he thought sourly. At times, he wished he had never followed the lure of rapid promotion and fantastically high pay and left the Federation Regulars for the ranks of the Uller Company. If he hadn’t, he probably be a colonel, at five thousand sols a year, but maybe it be better to be a middle-aged colonel on a decent planet - Odin with its two moons, Hugin and Munin, and its wide grasslands and evergreen forests that looked and even smelled like the pinewoods of Terra, or Baldur with snowcapped mountains and clear, cold lakes, and rocky rivers dashing under vine hung trees, or Freya, where the people were human to the last degree and the women were so breathtakingly beautiful- than a Company army general at twenty-five thousand on this combination icebox, furnace, wind-tunnel and stone-pile, where the water tasted like soap suds and left a crackly film when it dried...where nothing that ran or swan or grew was fit for a human to eat….”
Thus began the origin of H. Beam Piper’s Federation series, which later morphed into Empire. A universe (now in public domain) that comprises at least a dozen short stories, and eight novels (possibly nine depending on who you’re arguing with)- Most notably Little Fuzzy (a series of three books) and Space Viking.
After he died, his worlds were taken up and expanded into a dozen further books set in the Terro-Human Future History- all of which takes place over the next six thousand years. It rises, has a series of civil wars, falls, a chaotic time of no central authority occurs, then collapses into a series of despotic empires. And it all begins in this novel.
The background of the novel is that in 1942, the year the first fission reactor was constructed, is defined as the year 1 A.E. (Atomic Era). In 1973, a nuclear war devastates the planet, eventually laying the groundwork for the emergence of a Terran Federation,  after which humanity goes into space and develops antigravity technology (called contragravity). Most of the new power now lay in Earth’s southern hemisphere in formerly third world countries. Explorers have continued the tradition of naming planets after creatures from mythology, but have run out of Greek and Roman names, hence the names of the planets in this book all come from the Norse tradition.
Earth has expanded and is exploiting the resources of other planets. On Uller, where the lifeforms have a naturally higher silica rate, leading to accelerated petrification, the Uller Company rules in a Roman-esque colonization over the native population. The Ullers (or geeks as the humans on planet call them) are four armed, bipedal, lizard-like creatures with dense silca infused skin. Their technology before the human’s landed was rooted in the Iron Age, and are ruled by a collection of warring kings, who seem to care little for the welfare of their own people. The Uller company, there to gain natural resources, does little to help and are often an easy target for power hungry kings and prophets to blame all of their problems on.
As you might have guessed, there is an uprising. It is on par with the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, where the native Indian population attacked British forces after a lie was spread about them by various insurgent elements. The main focus of the book focuses on the surviving humans trying to stay alive on a hostile planet where millions of aliens are howling for their deaths. Only superior technology is on their side, but then they get a nasty shock.
There is an interesting introduction to this novel giving detailed scientific descriptions of the two planets involved in the story: Uller, the silicone world, and Niflheim, the flourtine world where no life could evolve. Later on in the timeline the name Niflheim becomes a stand in for Hell. What is also interesting is that the introduction is written by Dr. John D. Clark, a prominent scientist of the 40s and 50s and one of the key discoverers of sulfa drugs- which were the “miracle drug” and near cure-alls before discovery of antibiotics. According to the note, the essay was written first as a hypothetical and then given to Piper to work off of.
As this is a first novel, it is not an example of the author’s (one of my favorites) best work. The cons are that it is bogged down by top heavy detail and a ton of characters who are mostly incidental to the plot. The author wants to demonstrate that the human races have mixed together and does so by swapping traditional names- such as Carlos von Schlichten and Chaim O’Leary. The amount of names slows everything down. Also, the novel is a bit talky and demonstrates the author’s literary upbringing. In the old style, very often the action of a piece was shown after the fact by people talking. We are never really in the thick of it as it is told from the perspective of the General directing the action.
 Pros, it is very intelligent and direct, with no wishy-washiness, no hand-wringing, or fake moral indignation. These are men here to do a job and stay alive, the ethics with how they do so can be discussed later.
While I’m supposed to be pimping Piper’s books, I cannot in all conscience do so without mentioning that all of his material has now lapsed into public domain and has been archived at Project Guttenburg. Everything thing he wrote is available free for download at this website. If you’re like me, you prefer actual books and thus would order the material above.

Copy of Project Guttenburg’s books-

For more readings, try books by Rex Hurst. 

No comments:

Post a Comment