Jan 6, 2013

Under Oib

One of the first science fiction novels I read was John Brunner's Born Under Mars. I have not seen that book for 40 years, but I fondly recall the mood that it created: Mars as a kind of rundown slum of the galaxy.

Brunner depicted Mars as the first world settled by colonists from Earth, but with time, humanity reached the stars and Mars became a nearly forgotten backwater. Brunner imagined that the human residents of Mars were very tall due to the low gravity of their home world.

In Exode, there are obvious similarities between Mars and the planet Oib. The Huaoshy selected the Koly star system as the key base of operations for Buld revolutionaries because of similarities between that star system and the Solar System. Specifically, because of their attempt to terraform Oib, the Buld develop technology for transmitting vast amounts of power through space. Later, they can share that technology with Earth.

Oib is not as dead as Mars and the pek have put some effort into making Oib more human-friendly during the past 7 million years. Hemmal and Oib are called the "paired planets" by the residents of Oib. Nobody would be living on Oib if it were not right next door to the Earth-like Hemmal. The pek have fun terraforming Hemmal and providing it with terrain that is modeled on Earthly locals. In a joking mood, the pek even provided Oib with moons that look like the Moons of Mars. It is almost as if the pek want people from the Koly system to feel right at home in our Solar system.

welcome to Oib
At the end of Chapter Two of Exode, Parthney's adventure has brought him into orbit over Oib and he believes that he will soon be on his way down to the surface of Oib. Of course, the surface of Oib is a lethal environment for humans. People live under the surface of Oib.

In Brunner's story the protagonist, martian Ray Mallin, returns to his home and surprisingly finds his quiet world involved in the galactic equivalent of cold war spy shenanigans. In Exode, Oib is like Cuba, close to the affluent shore of Hemmal/Florida, but the technology of Oib is dull and home-spun compared to the flashiness of Hemmal.

Oib is the home of a band of revolutionaries who have freed themselves and run away from the "slave society" of Hemmal. The revolutionaries view the people of Hemmal as little better than cattle, being bred and fattened by the mysterious Creators who brought humans from Earth to the distant worlds of the Galactic Core. However, what if you start a glorious revolutionary and you boldly declare your independence and go where no Buld has gone before...and nobody cares?

Or, even worse, what if it appears that the capitalist pigs on the mainland have co-opted the glorious revolution and are manipulating it so as to slyly advance their own diabolical domination of humanity? On Oib, the spiritual fire of revolution is now 20,000 years old and only a few "grumpy old men" remain to stir the last dying ember. When Parthney arrives at Oib, having missed the party by 20 millennia, he has to wonder what he is getting himself into. In a galaxy dominated by the high-tech equivalents of stealth bombers and cruise missiles, Parthney is sent off to the front line battle on Earth without even a toothbrush.

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