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Are 'danes Inheriting the Earth?

Fallen Angels
By Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Michael Flynn
Reviewed by Larry Arnold

I was curious when Larry Arnold -- a new contributor to the Lodge -- said he wanted to review this eight-year-old book. His own words provide all the explanation that's needed...

The best science fiction blazes new trails. Fallen Angels cuts a free path through a thicket of politically correct, environmentally friendly, "for your own good" political philosophies. As a bonus, it gives freedom lovers a new word: "'danes."

"Danes?" Alex was startled. "We were nowhere near Greenland."

"No, not Danes. Apostrophe-danes, as in 'mundanes.' People with no imagination. People who couldn't imagine space travel even after it happened. The 'danes have inherited the Earth."

Even though Fallen Angels was published in 1991, some of its predictions are starting to appear in today's news. In the story, 'danes have taken over with a vengeance. Reading science fiction is a sign of insanity, and the government is ready to "help" you. Writing it is not quite a punishable offense.

"Sci-fi nuts," said Moorkith. "Technophiles. It should be illegal."

"Nevertheless, there is the First Amendment."

"Maybe we need another exception. After all, Flag burning and disrespectful singing of the Anthem are not covered by the First."

The gray Earth of Fallen Angels is gripped in the beginning of a new ice age. Under the danelaw "inappropriate" technology and science are being supplanted by friendlier disciplines, crystal therapy and astrology. The one reminder of the past is the orbiting space station, where a remnant of humanity's pioneers barely survive. Two astronauts, dipping one of the remaining spacecraft into the atmosphere to scoop up nitrogen, are shot down and stranded on the Minnesota glacier.

The only friendlies available to attempt a rescue are members of a science fiction convention. What follows is a mad continental tour one step ahead of the "ruling coalition of proxmires, rifkins, falwells and maclaines" who have lurched into pursuit. Luckily the country's SF fans, although driven underground, are far from ready to quit. Imagination and individual initiative become forces of nature.

The authors sideswipe sacred cows at ever opportunity. For instance, two teenage Greens, on their way to a premier to protest the wearing of fur during an ice age, end up redirected by the rescue team. In the name of not being sexist; "What we could do is, we should station teams outside biker bars and throw dye on leather-clad men as they come out."

Unfortunately, Fallen Angels doesn't show the results of that monkey wrench. There are enough sabotages, however, that Claire Wolfe could end up with another 101 things to do before the revolution.

One of which should be to read, or reread this book. In the end it is about freedom. The central question becomes, "How long can people who love liberty, pretend to be 'danes."

Isn't that a pretty good question to be pondering today?

© 1999 Larry Arnold

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