Shakespeare's Planet

by Clifford D. Simak
Reviewed date: 2009 Jul 23
Rating: 2
202 pages
cover art

Shakespeare's Planet is a spin on the old SF trope: a crew in cold sleep spends millennia crossing deep space, only to arrive and find that faster-than-light travel has been invented in the meantime. Simak's spin: when Carter Horton arrives at Shakespeare's Planet, he finds that the planet's only tunnel is locked and nobody can leave. FTL travel is possible, but Horton is still stranded and cut off from all humanity.

Besides Horton, the characters are:

  • Ship, the artificial trinitarian mind that controls the spaceship which brought Horton through deep space
  • Nicodemus, Horton's robot servant
  • Carnivore, an alien stranded on Shakespeare's Planet
  • Shakespeare, a half-mad man stranded on Shakespeare's Planet, who died shortly before Horton arrives
  • Pond, a living liquid that looks like water
  • A golden dragon trapped in a time bubble
  • A mound or hill that seems to be somehow alive
  • Elayne, a woman who comes through the tunnel about halfway into the story

When Horton arrives, he is surprised by Carnivore, who greets him in perfect English. Carnivore learned English from a man who whimsically called himself Shakespeare. Carnivore hopes that Horton can fix the tunnel so that it will take them off the planet. Horton can't fix the tunnel, but does discover that it has been deliberately locked; it operates one-way only. Things can go to Shakespeare's Planet, but never leave. He surmises that this world has either been quarantined or is intended as a prison.

Then Horton learns about the god-hour. Every day, a mental phenomenon engulfs the planet, tearing into the minds of every living thing on the world. Being laid bare and mentally probed is painful.

The mystery of Shakespeare's Planet is revealed. The planet is quarantined because there is a great Evil living there. Like the phoenix, it rises from its ashes. At that point, the golden dragon is supposed to destroy the Evil. Time has crippled the dragon, though, and it is Carnivore who charges and destroys the evil beast, at the cost of his own life.

Once the beast is destroyed, the tunnel opens again, and Horton and Elayne can leave Shakespeare's Planet. Elayne goes back to her job of mapping the tunnel system; Horton opts to go back into cold sleep and accompany Ship on further deep space adventures.

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