ells the story of a boy from the planet Old North Australia (where rich, simple farmers grow the immortality drug Stroon), how he bought Old Earth, and how his visit to Earth changed both him and Earth itself.
A very eccentric novel, a bit frustrating at times, but quite
entertaining. It was frustrating in that there were so many potentially
interesting issues that could have been pursued--and they were left
unexplored. For instance, telepathy is just a given in Norstrilian
society and if you are judged to be disabled (i.e. not a telepath), you
are executed at age 18. The reason given for this is population
control--but surely that is easier to do before the children are born,
rather than executing 18 years olds? Once they have passed this test,
they have qualified to take the longevity drug, Stroon, and live a long
life producing more of the drug for export. Population control and
extreme long life seem to be at odds with each other, and no discussion
of this conflict happens.
Rod McBan has great difficulty passing this test--he is an irregular
telepath, although he is a nice enough fellow and his friends and family
are distressed that he is likely to be executed instead of becoming the
head of the farm and family. Except one man, a childhood frenemy, who
really has a hate on for Rod.
After passing through the Garden of Death unscathed, Rod must deal
with realities--he needs to get off Old North Australia in order to
remain safe. With the help of his antique computer, he uses his Stroon
wealth to buy the planet Earth (aka Manhome) and sets off on a wild
The most interesting part of the book for me was the "Underpeople"
class, developed from animals such as cats, dogs, cows, even rats. They
are treated as disposable, used to do the messy or boring work that
"real" humans are reluctant to perform, despite their obvious
human-ness. Once again, the history & development of these persons
is glossed over, but the exploration of discrimination is well developed
and the critique of institutionalized discrimination is organic and not
preachy. (There were also a number of religious themes that might
Nowadays, this story would be done as a series, exploring all the
history and fleshing out all of the characters. This book rattles from
beginning to end in less than 300 pages, just hitting the high spots.
Things I particularly liked: attention to Australia, a country which
rarely gets mentioned in science fiction; Rod's sensual appreciation of
the environment of Old Earth.
Other observations: this books follows in a tradition of the 1960s
science fiction that deals with telepathy as a real thing; it joins
books like Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House in dealing with longevity and population control issues.
A fun, fast, and quirky read.