Book Reviews

A planet called Treason * Orson Scott Card

If you haven’t read this book already, I recommend you find it and you read it. Even trying to summarize it for others will make you look like a total weirdo! This book here is sci-fi in all its glory – an alien price of super strength and regenerative abilities grows a pair of boobs and gets exiled and cut off from the throne. In his travels, he goes to a country where people live in trees where he is almost seduced by a lesbian who then wants to kill him/her. He escapes, gets captured as a slave, grows some limbs, gets a symbiotic evil twin, gets healed by people who can talk to rocks and then learns how to move time fast forward or very slow. He finds out that all the rulers of kingdoms are illusionists who can make others see them as something different and invent false memories of them and goes off to eradicate an entire nation. Then meets his twin, heals him and goes back to his initial sweetheart and they grow old together.

Did I lose you at the part where he grows soft and plump breasts above his rock-hard abdomen? Or where he goes into quick time and can move as fast as Quicksilver? Or where he grows a new arm from the middle of his neck and uses it to scratch his back?308908

I don’t think you’ve ever read a book like this (as I surely never did) and it will definitely keep you entertained for days!

Imagine a superhuman. If you’ve watched the DBZ series, imagine a sayan. Product of years of genetic engineering and mutation, he’s a Mueller, heir to a proud nation of warriors who go through puberty not only seeing their body change but seeing their body grow into new limbs and forms.

Lanik Mueller is the heir apparent to his nation and when he turns 15 his body can’t cope with the surge of hormones and keeps growing ovaries and breasts as not being able to properly decide his gender. His wife, Serena, is unaware of the changes happening to him as he refuses to sleep together and starts wearing baggy clothes. But all lies will eventually be found out and Lanik is exiled to the life of a mere ambassador and cut off from the throne in favour of his brother.

There are several other nations living on the planet called “Treason”, all derived from different ancestors of different professions. The Andersons were elusive as they were stemming from a politician, the Allisons were god-fearing people, coming from a teolog. The Schwartz were stemming from a geologist and his love of rocks made his people able to communicate to the Earth and understand the molecular structure of things so that they never grew old again.

The Ku Kuei were coming from a philosopher and they mastered time (being able to alter the flow, not travel to the future or the past) and became very lazy and fat as a result. Their idea of hunting was to stop time for the poor animal, go and cut its throat and then eat it.

The Nkumai appeared as primitive people (and beware of a little bit of Racism in the book as it was written in the ’50 and tolerance against the darker skinned was low). They lived in trees but paradoxically they were very rich in a very rare metal, iron, which made them a target for other nations. It’s only when Lanik travels here in his hermaphrodite form that he finds out that the Nkumai stem from a physicist and that their apparent primitive life-style had hidden strengths like sky highways and toxic gas exports.

I want to see the king.
Wonderful. I’m glad for you.
Why are you so glad?
Because it’s good for every human being to have an unfulfilled wish. It makes all of life so poignant.

We find out in passing about the others – the Underwood or the Smiths – in tales of conquered and destroyed and tales of years of peace. I loved the people of Bird – all erudite women with no men. It’s a Bird that Lanik disguises himself as, but his cover is blown when a small hand starts growing from his shoulder and gets taken prisoner and tortured.

What the Nkumai did not know was that Lanik, a degenerate regenerative had amazing healing powers, being able to even fool death (and at one point does it, his heart regenerating against the arrow that was shot through it). As Lanik escapes, he goes to a deserted place where the Schwartz find him and heal his broken body structure by reorganizing the damaged DNA. They are the ones that teach him how to talk to stones as all stones are alive and ask him never to use the earth to kill as the earth cries a deafening cry whenever a living creature is put down. As Lanik will have to kill in the future to liberate the planet, he meets with the Schwartzes again and they have a really interesting conversation about when it’s ok to kill and when it’s not.

From the Schwartzes, Lanik goes back to his home country only to find it ruled by his brother who then incarcerates him and he only manages to get away with the help of his father and a handful of people. When escaping the castle, he cuts his brother’s throat thinking it will regenerate and runs away.

They raise an army to invade NKumai but they are defeated and pushed to the forest where the Ku Kuei lived. Lanik begs for help but does not get any until he talks to the rocks and manages to drain the lake where the Ku Kuei lived. He uses the lake as a bargaining chip and as the Ku Kuei speed up time, they return to normal time a while (years) after everyone stopped searching for them. He’s now called “Lake Drinker” and he lives with Serena and his father among the Ku Kuei and learns to modify time around him. Serena slows down time because she thinks that the fat fast-moving people are funny and she gets called a “stump” as she looks like a tree when she slowly moves. After his father commits suicide by drowning in the lake (hard thing to do for a person with Deadpool’s powers), Lanik goes on a mission to find his meaning in life.

Your father cares as little as we do. It’s just that he tends to despair, while we are full of hope.

He finds out about the shape-shifter people in quick-time and finds out that the Anderson people are capable of planting false memories in people’s minds and convince them of their truth. So, his brother, was not really his brother as he was an only child and an impostor was ruling Mueller. And the Andersons, with all their political power, slowly ruled the earth and gathered all the iron for their wasteland of a country.

Keep your freedom, keep your immortality, but somewhere along the line I hope you figure out what you’re living forever for. What noble purpose you mean to achieve. Because you’re no good to anyone here, not even yourselves

To check his hunches, Lanik goes to Anderson where he is nearly killed by an old man posing as a beautiful woman who manages to seduce him. He kills the man and hears the cry of the earth for the first time. As he tried to convince himself that the killing was justified, his murder travels the Earth and the Schwartzes know. He asks for their help in killing all the other Anderson’s by sinking their island but they refuse to help him commit genocide (even for the purpose of freeing the planet)..

If you could stop the suffering and dying, and didn’t stop it, then you are guilty. It is your fault.
We kill no one. We do not let them kill us. We have nothing to do with them.

They are very disappointed in Lenik and no longer consider him a brother.

You are not what you seem.
So many people have said that that I’m beginning to think that’s precisely how I do seem. What is it I seem to be that you have now discovered that I’m not?

He does it all and then with this huge weight upon his shoulders, sets off to kill off every single shape-shifter from Anderson, traveling in quick-time faster than their messengers could. Once the world is free of them and the ambasadors are disposed off, he goes back to his own country to find out his twin is now ruling it and he’d changed for the better. After a quick stop, he goes to find Serena still stopped in “stump” time like she was when he left. He slows down to her time and tells her he had been and gone and come back again and all was well with the world. The entire discussion takes 5 normal time-flow years to complete, even if it took them no more than a couple of seconds to utter the words.

You looked so intense. Whatever you were saying, you seemed to mean it, and it wasn’t amusing at all. Started quite a fashion. People keep looking for purpose now. Complicates everything.

This was a magnificent fantastical story, any one of the many ideas within worthy of its own book. I love the combination of outrageous impossible things being real plus certain real-world truths remaining. Crazy & odd cultures, magic, ideas, all still part of a simple good vs. evil discussion. For me, that is a truly good read, not just “these guys are bad, goodness conquers, the end”, but wondering what is really good anyway, what means are just, what is a life worth living.

  • It made me wonder if perhaps our ancestors’ crimes were not in fact far more terrible than they claimed. After all, the only histories we possessed told their version of what happened, and in their accounts they were completely innocent.

One other great review:

http://www.zone-six.net/2015/03/18/planet-called-treason/

http://www.zone-six.net/2015/03/18/planet-called-treason/

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