The Loafers of Refuge by Joseph L. Green: A Thoughtful Look At Interstellar Colonization

I enjoyed The Loafers of Refuge by Joseph L. Green much more than it’s title or cover led me to expect. It’s about Carey Sheldon, the first Earth colonist born on a planet orbiting Antares, who as an adolescent decides to participate in the aborigines’ rite-of-passage ritual. This requires him to survive alone in the wilderness until he learns the “control” practiced by the native “loafers,” which is like literally being at one with nature. After surviving the ritual, Carey becomes an unofficial liaison between the colonists and loafers, and further plot developments follow his activities and those of his loafer friend, Timmy, and his sister Doreen.
The colonists use a matter transmitter (stargate / transporter) to trade with Earth, but it’s unsafe for people or animals, who have to travel in starships that take years. While these characters and others interact and develop relationships, the matter transmitter, the effects of the colonists on the local culture, Doreen’s deeper study of the loafers’ communication with certain fauna, and her decision to take the rite-of-passage herself, are all tied together. The author explores ecological, agricultural, and sociological differences without bogging down the fluid story. This novel is everything good science fiction should be, with likable characters that are developed believably along with the easily followed but thought-provoking plot.


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