Saturday, October 07, 2006

Four Day Planet and Lone Star Planet

Four Day Planet and Lone Star Planet

H. Beam Piper

Date: 01 September, 1984   —   used only   —   Book

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Fiction, Science Fiction

Four Day Planet is about Fenris, a planet which, logically enough, has four days a year. Its export is monster tallow-wax, a product that is hunted by pseudo-whalers. That wax is then sold to other planets as a product for creating protective garments. The problem is that the cooperative group that exists to sell the wax has been taken over by a group who hold a monopoly on sales, and keep dropping the price (though it is fairly obvious that the price is not really dropping and the money is getting diverted to the strongmen's pockets.) What is a planet with a sole export to do, especially as the local government is merely an extension of the cooperative?

This book was obviously written in an era before hostile takeovers and acquisitions were common. It is probably obvious to the reader what is to be done, but the people involved seem strangely naïve about the business. However, it is a classic piece of science fiction and should be read as such.

Lone Star Planet is the sort of book to make libertarians very happy. It starts with Mr. Stephen Silk, who has written an article that is potentially very embarrassing to his superiors. For his pains, he gets assigned to be the Ambassador to New Texas, the previous one having been gunned down by some of the locals. In fact, of the previous Ambassadors, only one ended up sane and alive - and that one went native. And to make matters worse, it's obvious that an extra-solar race is looking at New Texas to start a war with humanity - and Silk may be the sacrifice needed to justify humanity striking first. Obviously, this is a very touchy job.

The libertarian-pleasing part of the book is in the New Texas constitution - if someone is defined as a practicing politician under the law, and he is killed, the court convenes not to determine whether the killer did the deed but whether it was, basically, justifiable homicide. In other words, if the politician in question does something to erode his constituents' liberties, or otherwise goes against the will of the people, he is fair game.

Brings a whole new meaning to the term "political season."

When Silk gets to New Texas, he immediately discerns a problem. The trial for the murder of the previous Ambassador is taking place in the political court - which means that the precedent is to define Ambassasdors as New Texas politicians. But if the case is withdrawn, then the murderers get off free, and he can't have that either... and besides, he'd like to not only save the day, he'd love to be a hero so as to look good for the lovely Gail, daughter of the Ambassador who went native. It's a fine line to tread.

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