Masters of Everon
Reviewed date: 2007 Aug 17
Everon is a newly colonized planet. The planetary ecology is still adapting to the introduction of Earth plants and animals. In addition to fruits and vegetables, two species of livestock have been brought from Earth: wisent, the European bison; and eland, a large African antelope. The native Everon wildlife is hostile to the newcomers. In particular, the maolot, a giant Everon cat, routinely destroy herds of wisent.
The story begins when Jef Robini arrives on Everon to study the maolots. He hopes to gain some understanding that will unravel the mystery of the native Everon wildlife. The key to Jef's research is Mikey, a maolot that Jef has raised from a cub. Mikey has lived on Earth nearly all his life, and Jef intends to watch Mikey as he is reintroduced to his home world.
Jef has another agenda, though. His brother William disappeared on Everon many years ago and is presumed dead. Jef intends to locate his brother's grave, if it exists.
As Jef disembarks at the Everon spaceport, he meets Martin Curragh, a fellow passenger. Curragh mysteriously helps Jef get Mikey through customs. (It takes about half a page to figure out that Curragh is Jef's brother William, whom Jef completely fails to recognize.)
Once on Everon, Jef and Mikey set out into the wilderness. As they hike, Jef gradually becomes aware that he is psychically connected to Mikey. The connection grows stronger and Mikey becomes more familiar with Everon. Soon, Mikey and Jef can communicate telepathically.
At the same time, Jef is learning that Everon is in civil war. The wisent ranchers are poisoning the eland, razing the forests, and expanding their herds onto the new swaths of grassland. The eland ranchers try to fight back, but the destruction of their forests is a terrible loss.
The conflict between wisent ranchers and eland ranchers is rendered moot when Jef finally understands what Mikey is trying to tell him. Mikey and his fellow maolots are part of a single living creature. All native Everon life is psychically connected into one planetary mind. The planet is a living creature; the maolots are its most advanced avatars, but every living creature is a part of Everon.
And Everon wants nothing to do with Earth-type life. Jef is on trial. If he can convince Everon that he deserves to live, he will be spared. If not, he and all Earth-type life will die. Dickson cleverly arranges it so that Everon comes off looking like the good guy, standing up against sinful, depraved humanity. I don't buy it. Everon is threatening genocide, and I'm supposed to believe that Everon is good and righteous? Everon is frightening. A hive mind that controls an entire world, that permits no individuality, that threatens genocide when it meets a form of life that will not submit to its control? Everon is evil.
Dickson supplies what he thinks is a happy ending: Jef proves his right to live by using his newfound powers of telepathy to reach out to a wisent, drawing it into rapport with himself. He reaches back and draws on racial memories of ancient times, when cave-man and paleo-wisent existed together in a primitive form of collective consciousness. But I don't think it's a happy ending. Everon let humanity live, but only because it has decided to reshape humanity into a group consciousness like itself. That is no victory for mankind. It means the death of mankind, the loss of individuality, and the subjugation of the self to the collective.