Shadows In The Sun by Chad Oliver.

Shadows In The Sun by Chad Oliver.

I had this novel on the shelf since I was a kid, and finally gave it a read. It has a few points of interest, but how could an alien invasion be this boring?

It seems as though the author tried to expand a short story with three plot elements into a 150 page novel by repeating a lot of exposition over and over and over again with the same repetive narrative repeated over and over and over again. It starts out slow, the stillness of the hot Texas town described in excruciatingly static detail. Then the main character sees a spaceship and learns the town is inhabited by peaceful alien colonists. Then the story really slows down, as he tries to decide whether to join the invaders, or whether he can find any way to fight them. This is explored thoroughly with logic and analogies. Then it’s explored thoroughly with metaphors and discussions of society and humanity in excruciating philosophical detail. Then he takes a break to visit his girlfriend in Austen, and the book really picks up for about one chapter (though they don’t have sex because it was written in the 1950s). Then he goes back to the small town to continue exploring the the issue.

The redeeming values: 1. If may be where the idea of Star Trek’s Prime Directive originated. Consider this line:
“The aliens could not legally interfere with Earth, and they enforced their laws.”
2. The author’s treatment of women, and a couple other elements, reminded me of my favorite writer, Robert Heinlein, though Heinlein never wrote anything so dull, and it may just seem similar because it’s from the same period.
3. You might find some tidbits of wisdom scattered in all the exposition; tihs is the only one that stood out enough for me to share: “If everybody had always agreed that current ideas were the ultimate in human wisdom, we would all still be huddled in caves.”

Here’s a passage that reminded me of some of Heinlein’s ideas, yet shows Oliver’s dull execution:
“Human beings, by virtue of being human beings, had certain structural “musts” that had to find outlets. They had to eat and sleep and mate. All societies provided for such needs. And if you were conditioned to live in one specific society, you did it in the way the society specified, and you liked it — because that was your way, too. Beyond those basic needs, all cultures provided systems of handling the products of group living. Families? They could be monogamous or polygamous, matrilineal or patrilineal. You liked the one you were brought up in.” If you liked reading that, maybe you’ll like the rest of the book. But to me, compared to Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters it’s like reading a phone book.


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