Sunday, October 03, 2010

Pursuit of the Screamer by Ansen Dibell (1978)

I bought a copy of Pursuit of the Screamer by Ansen Dibell (1978) at a used bookstore on vacation in Fort Collins this summer, partly because it was only a dollar, and mostly because of its very entertaining cover. I'm still kind of mortified / fascinated by the odd crotch drapery of the woman's outfit. Not particularly comfy-looking...

When I started reading this book, I suspected that the author was a woman, mostly because the name Ansen Dibell couldn't possibly sound more like a pseudonym, and the reason many genre authors use pseudonyms is that they are actually women. In Dibell's case, she was not only a woman, but also a professor of English literature, who probably didn't want her CV filled up with books featuring creative crotch draping on the cover.

Pursuit of the Screamer gracefully tells a pretty complicated story of a distant planet made up of a native people (the Valde -- warriors, able to read minds and communicate telepathically, very empathetic to the environment, mostly women), a colonizing group of humans (the Bremneri -- mostly merchants in strict feudal settlements run by women and guarded by Valde), and a technologically advanced and now Deathless race called the Teks (as well as some other sub-groups that have split off and formed over the last several thousand years). Jannus, a young Bremneri man, falls in love with Poli, a Valde woman at the end of her 10 year military service guarding his town. He also finds himself responsible for Lur, a Deathless Tek who is first in the body of a young boy, and later in the body of a giant cat (that is when the cover starts making a little more sense).

When the Teks ruled the planet, they discovered a way to create a recording of all their memories and experiences that could be stored away in a vault and implanted in a new living body at the time of their death. This essentially gave them immortality and took away the finality of death. Suicide became an artistic statement. People were murdered just to prove a point. Death could even be a simple way of traveling since you could kill your body in one location and then be reborn in a new body in a distant keep. A series of circumstances and a whole lot of time eventually led to a breakdown in the system and although Teks were still dying and being reborn, they were locked into their own territory and forced to fight over water and kill each other for food, only to be reborn again in a sick Groundhog's Day of an eternal life. Talk about comeuppance for grasping at immortality...

The intricate history of the planet and the motives of the main characters are more than a little too complicated to get into in the course of this review, but eventually Jannus, Poli and Lur, along with their capable partner Elda, find themselves responsible for bringing a welcomed death to the deathless and pushing the planet away from an inevitable war.

Dibell nicely balances the big social and political movements of this world with an intimate story of the love between Jannus and Poli. This is a well written and engaging book with an entertaining (although misleading and ultimately unfortunate) cover. I'd definitely like to read the rest of the series.

2 comments:

idigholes said...

Guess you can just go ahead and add this to the "stack of books I want to borrow from you when I finally make a dent in the stack of books on my night table"

Spacebeer said...

You got it -- just let me know when your reading pile thins out enough for a new addition.