Seed of the Dreamers
Reviewed date: 2023 Aug 26
I enjoyed this book. It's not deep, but the plot moves fast. Famous characters from other well-known works of fiction make cameos, and are delightful and almost never wear out their welcome. Petaja lets us enjoy the appearances of famous characters that we know and love from popular books (and films!), but never forgets to advance the plot too, so it doesn't degenerate into mere fan fiction. Thumbs up on this one.
Starcop Brad Mantee
Star Control keeps order in the galaxy by ruling with a brutal iron fist. Loyal Starcops like Brad Mantee are the cogs that keep the machine in motion. In particular, Brad is delivering Dr. Milton Lloyd to the Sunnystar mental facility for incarceration. Unluckily for Brad, when he lands his spaceship he's met on the landing pad not by the Sunnystar staff, but by a beautiful young woman. This is unusual and out of order. Brad is discombobulated just enough that the woman distracts him, which allows Lloyd to escape—which he does, right back into Brad's ship. Moments later Lloyd blasts off in Brad's spaceship. Brad's perfect service record is ruined. Oh bother.
The woman explains that she is Harriet Lloyd, Dr. Lloyd's long-lost daughter. She has been searching for him for years. Brad doesn't care to sit around at Sunnystar and answer a lot of questions about why he lost Dr. Lloyd, and Harriet wants to locate her father, so they agree to team up and search for Dr. Lloyd together. They take Harriet's spaceship and set off. Harriet uses her ESP sense to direct them.
Illegal fiction books
Harriet and Brad get to know each other. Harriet calls Brad a big phony, and says she knows all about his secret stash of illegal books. Brad is surprised and concerned. Star Control has outlawed fiction, but Brad (despite being a loyal Starcop) has a collection of ancient books such as Treasure Island that he's read and re-read dozens of times.
Virgo and the emerald halos
They arrive at the planet Dr. Lloyd landed on. Brad lands the spaceship, but they must traverse on foot to locate Dr. Lloyd. The planet is unexplored and primitive. There is abundant plant life but no sign of animals larger than insects. Curiously, the insects have what Harriet dubs an "emerald halo" about them. It is a “nimbus of greenish specks”, a “band of coruscating flecks…a kind of mobile coronet.” Harriet dubs the planet Virgo, after her zodiac sign and because the planet is virgin and unexplored.
King Solomon's Mines
Brad and Harriet are ambushed by a war party of black African tribesmen. Brad recognizes them. They are Kukuanas, and their leader is named Infadoos. They are characters from the classic H. Rider Haggard book King Solomon's Mines. Someone or something has brought to life the characters from Brad's books. Curiously, the Kukuanas have emerald halos just like the insects.
Infadoos and his Kakuanas are loyal to the Word, which is the plot of the book from which they were taken. Brad pretends to be Alan Quatermain (Petaja spells it Alan, though Haggard's character was Allan) but Infadoos is not fooled for long. Infadoos orders their execution for blasphemy against the Word.
Zartan, Morlocks, and more
Who should rescue them but Zartan and a herd of elephants! Yes, due to copyright issues, this is Zartan, Lord Staygroke rather than Tarzan, Lord Greystoke. I have no words.
Tarzan, I mean Zartan, and his elephants have emerald halos. So do all the other book characters that Brad and Harriet meet—and there are a lot. There are dwarfs from Princess Ida; or, Castle Adaman by Gilbert and Sullivan. There is Deena from the Morlocks of H. G. Wells's The Time Machine. Later they find the characters from As You Like It by Shakespeare. Petaja moves quickly between characters and none of them overstay their welcome.
The love interest
Brad the loyal Starcop is beginning to soften. Harriet is having an effect on him.
Harriet kept surprising him with her buoyancy, her resilience, her intuitive intelligence that kept him on his toes. Maybe it was all that reading: Brad was the all-man, would-be hero; Deena was the helpless, clinging female.
Harriet wasn't that way. She had trailed her father halfway across the galaxy, alone. It took brains and guts and a lot most of the book women didn't have. They were their heroes' ego-feeders. Harriet is—
Well, she's damn special, and while she irritates the hell out of me every once in a while, she also—never mind. Later.
For copyright reasons Brad and Harriet run into Tsung from Shamure rather than Chang from Shangri-La. The book is Lost Horizon by James Hilton. I had to look that up. You're welcome. Tsung is thoughtful and philosophical, and he understands when Brad explains that he's a character in a book. It's all moot though, because now The Mind intervenes.
The Mind, the Egg, and the Wizard
The intelligence that brought the book characters to life has decided it's time to meet Brad and Harriet face to face. It brings them to itself. What is itself? A dome that's shaped like a giant egg. The intelligence transports them inside the egg, and suddenly we're in the Wizard of Oz. But it's the 1939 MGM movie version, not the 1900 L. Frank Baum book version, and there's no bowdlerization of names to avoid copyright concerns. This is truly odd. Anyway, moving on. Brad is the Scarecrow, Harriet is Dorothy, and the alien intelligence is the Wizard. The Wizard explains that he's a single cell of a cosmic entity called The Mind. The Mind seeds planets with life, life that will later be useful for them when they arrive to use the planet. The Wizard seeded this planet using local resources and the plots of Brad's books. Fun, right? But having learned what he can from Brad, Harriet, and the book people he animated, the Wizard must confer with the rest of the Mind to determine the next steps. He shoos them out, and sends Dr. Lloyd with them.
Dr. Lloyd, but not Dr. Lloyd
The Wizard fixed Dr. Lloyd's body but not his mind. The man is an empty husk. Tsung and his crew take care of Lloyd while Brad journeys into the forest to meet and confer with as many book people as he can find. He's up to something.
Some time later, the Wizard calls Brad and Lloyd back to himself. After conferring with the rest of The Mind, the Wizard has decided that what he's done on this planet is a mistake, and The Mind always expunges its mistakes. Oh dear. The Wizard will eliminate Brad, Harriet, Dr. Lloyd, and all the book people.
But surprise! The Wizard didn't count on one thing: the emerald halos. He may have seeded Virgo with the book people, but the little emerald halos existed before the Wizard arrived and are pure Virgo. They are swarms of tiny symbiotes native to Virgo, and their presence gives the book people—the heroes that Brad recruited—the ability to break free from their programming and become independent creatures of free will. These creatures of free will very much desire to continue existing, so they attack the Wizard and kill him.
Happily ever after
Dr. Lloyd's body dies. Harriet and Brad are in love and neither has any reason to return to Star Control's domain. They will stay on Virgo and teach the book people how to move beyond their sacred Word and build a free and independent society.