The Great Explosion
by Eric Frank Russell

A Gulliver’s Travels story set in space. Four hundred years after millions of people from Earth have colonized numerous planets all over the galaxy, the central government of Earth sends a space ship to four of the colonies to check on their progress and to induce them to join a mutual defense pact against potential alien invaders. The first planet they visit is one that was colonized by criminals. They have evolved a culture in which work is regarded as foolish, because if you produce something somebody will steal it from you. They live in tribal communities that are afraid of being attacked by each other. The only trade that takes place is on a few days each year when women (who are a small minority still among the criminal population) get to check out the men from other strongholds and decide if they want to relocate. The inhabitants of this planet are uncooperative and have no central government for the Ambassador to negotiate a treaty with. So the visitors leave.

Next they go to a planet that was originally colonized by anarchists who later invited health-nut nudists to join them. The health nuts have taken over the planet and established a central government. The original anarchists have been reduced to living in the jungle outside civilization, and, unfortunately, they are not heard from. The embarrassment of the visitors over the nudity on this planet is over emphasized. The visitors eventually negotiate to leave a delegation on the planet (isolated from the natives so as not to contaminate them with diseases).

Another planet they fly around was originally settled by Moslems, but the population seems to have been wiped out, and the visitors are afraid to land because the fear it might be contaminated. The final planet they visit is one that was colonized by libertarian followers of Gandhi. Half the book is devoted to this visit. The Gangs have no government for the Ambassador to negotiate with and they refuse to cooperate with the intruders. They have a MYOB attitude and they understand freedom, but they don’t believe in money. They barter favors and “obs” (obligations). The economy works only because this is a novel and the author believes it could work. Many of the visitors become converts and desert the ship. The rest are forced by the space ship’s leaders to return to Earth while there are still enough left to man the ship.

The writing is very good and a pleasure to read. I will look for more books by E. F. Russell.

Year Read: 2001

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