by Philip José Farmer
Reviewed date: 2005 Jun 26
Rating: 3
191 pages
Quote: "Shut up. I'm trying to get your chastity belt off."
cover art

Captain Peter Stagg and his crew return to Earth after an eight hundred year voyage of interstellar exploration. They discover mankind destroyed itself soon after they left, and the remnants of humanity have formed a primitive agricultural society in the Washington, D.C. area. Their religion is a fertility cult with an American twist: they worship the goddess Columbia.

The book is just an excuse to describe in gory detail the rites and ceremonies of the fertility cult. Captain Stagg is crowned the Sunhero and invited--at spear point--to take the lead role in the ritual orgies.

But sex isn't their only game: they've turned baseball into a gladiatorial blood sport. A heavy ball studded with metal spikes is hurled at a hapless batter who may not leave the batter's box on pain on death. The pitching team throws the runners out by throwing the deadly ball at them as they run the bases.

The plot is thin: Stagg and his crew manage to lose control of their spaceship and must survive among the primitive Americans. Some survive (and of course take wives right away--800 years without female companionship makes men do rash things) but most do not. It's a pointless book except to offer a glimpse at what an American fertility cult might be like.

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