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Monday, March 28, 2011

Recently read: "The Leagcy of Heorot" by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steve Barnes

The Leagcy of Heorot

The Legacy of Heorot

Niven and Pournelle, writing as a team, gave us one of the definitive "First Contact" novels (The Mote in God's Eye, one of my favorite novels of all time), an excellent disaster novel (Lucifer's Hammer) and what I think is possibly the best alien invasion novel (Footfall).  Here, writing with Steve Barnes in 1987, they gave us a very good colonization novel.

After a century of travel in hibernation, the crew of the National Geographic is beginning the settlement of Avalon, an Eath like planet orbiting Tau Ceti IV.  Picking an island for the first settlement, the location seems almost idea, with no major predators.  Cadman Weyland, the only military man among the colonists, feels almost useless, until cattle and dogs start disappearing.

The predator is a marvelous killing machine, with turbo charged blood that gives it incredible speed in bursts.  Ignoring Weyland's warnings, the first attack on the colony is devastating and Weyland retreats to a home on a bluff above the colony (where he is joined by one of the female colonist in love with him).

Roused to action after they are attacked by a second "Grendel", the colonist (lead by Weyland) take action to wipe out the entire population.  This results in the colony feeling like the problem is solved, but the colonist later realize that they have upset the ecology of the island.  There's a desparate battle, with human weapons (lasers, electric fences, rifles) against an army of Grendels, with a final stand at "Cadamn's Bluff".

This is primarily an action novel, with man against alien beast.  The Grendel, with a life cycle based somewhat on an odd African frog (the frog, like the Grendels, are female and feed upon they children during famine), is an interesting alien (possibly as smart as a gorilla).  There's the added issue of "hibernation instability" which results in many of the colonist having various levels of brain damage (and even the ones that don't are prone to wonder if they are missing things).  There's also a heavy dose of "being prepared" (Heinlein's "if you would have peace, prepare for war").

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