I first heard about this title when I read Barlowe’s Guide to Extra-Terrestrials, (an artistic study of different aliens from SF literature. If you ever come across the book, check it out! It’s awesome!) and happened to stumble upon the novel at Half-Price Books in the bargain section. Previously the only work by Gordon R. Dickson I read was “St. Dragon and the George”, a short story about a man who was turned into a dragon. I had recommended it as a Short Story Worth Reading in a previous post.
Dickson once again tells a story of a young man who must rescue a kidnapped woman from an enemy but this time it’s on a planet called Dilbia, which is populated by ursine aliens, the “Buddah-like” giant Hemnoid, and human colonists, who are in competition with the Hemnoids to use Dilbia as a way station.
The young man in question is John Tardy, an athlete-turned-biologist who has been “chosen” by Ambassador Joshua Guy to find a sociologist named Ty Lamorc who’s been kidnapped by a Dilbian terrorist named The Streamside Terror and his girlfriend, Boy Is She Built.
But Dilbia has a lot of rocky, mountainous terrain and gravity that’s sixth less than Earth’s. Not too mention some dubious Hemnoids hanging around. A landscape that would be too difficult for even a former athlete to travel. Enter Dilbian postman, Hill Bluffer, who will carry John over large distances on his back on a special type of chair and has a strong commitment to delivering the “mail”, come hell or highwater. Because of this arrangement, John (like all humans that come in contact with the Dilbians) acquires a new Dilbian name: The Half-Pint Posted.
But en route to meet with the Terror, Tandy learns that not everything is what it seems: beneath the Dilbians’ rough demeanor is a cunning and duty-bound society. Ty Lamorc is not the “damsel in distress” she appears to be and The Streamside Terror’s intentions are not one of terrorism. The twist at the end may surprise you but this novella is an entertaining read from beginning to end. I highly recommend it for those of you who want to read science fiction but don’t know where to start (and may be a little intimidated by lengthier novels).
*Psssttt. It’s only 18 chapters.*
And here’s Wayne Barlowe’s rendition of a Dilbian for your viewing pleasure! (From ‘Barlowe’s Guide to Extra-Terrestrials’)