NESFA Members' Reviews

The Tower and the Hive

by Anne McCaffrey

Ace Books, 2000, ISBN 0-441-00720-1

A book review by Elisabeth Carey.

This is the latest in McCaffrey's Talents series, with human telepathically and telekinetically talented people organized into the Federated Telepath & Teleport to bring commerce and interstellar government to human-colonized space, and to keep space safe for Humans and Mrdini.

The Mrdini are the Good Guy aliens, furry, weasel-like critters that team up with Humans to stop the all-consuming expansion of the Hives. The Hives are the Bad Guy aliens. Five books into the series, communication with the Hives is still impossible. The Hive queens don't appear to even notice the existence of anyone who isn't of their species, although they do notice the existence of ships in space, and try to destroy them. The Mrdini, by the way, are cannibals eking out supplies on extended voyages by putting junior members of the crew "on the line" to augment the food supply. This is okay, because they can later recreate the exact genetic identity of the sacrificed crew members, not by cloning but by recreating the exact combination of genetic material from the original parents, and so that life is not "lost", just "delayed." Are you following this? We're talking about individuals old enough to be useful crew members on starships. Why should that make any difference to the validity of this reasoning?

McCaffrey's depiction of Earth politics is utterly cartoonish; no one who opposes the policies of Earth Prime Jeff Raven has any coherent reason for anything; the sole motivating factor is xenophobia. We're repeatedly told that Earth Prime has no political role whatsoever, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. There are no politics of any kind on any of the human colony worlds; the various branches of the Gwyn-Raven-Lyon clan exerc ise social leadership and make decisions, and breed and train up promising young Talents. There is perhaps some source of comfort to be found in that, in contrast to other McCaffrey stories set in star-travelling cultures, where people frequently experience violent nausea at the mere thought of eating anything that too closely resembles meat, the Gwyns, Ravens, Lyons, and every other human character that has any positive traits, hunts. Hunting for the table is a significant and necessary food source on all the colony worlds. Mind you, I'm not sure I believe the economics of this, as no reason is ever advanced as to why they don't have herds of suitable meat animals, but what the heck. At least they aren't vegetarians.

You may say that this is a rambling and incoherent review. I say, that's appropriate for this book.

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