|Submitted by Eric Alexander |
(Jul 31, 2009)
It seems as if everybody wants to go green these days. Well, science fiction writer Bruce Golden has done it in a big way with his new novel Evergreen. Yes, there’s an underlying environmental theme here, but that’s not what the book’s really about. Despite the fantastic milieu he’s created for the planet Evergreen, this is a true character story. It’s told from several viewpoints, while exploring the themes of revenge, redemption, and obsession.
Evergreen is still a frontier planet where many forms of technology are limited by solar activity and the planet’s magnetic field. Solar power is the only power other than muscle and sweat. The colony is being built on the backs of its indentured lumberjacks, while “the company” that owns the planetary mineral rights begins to set up mining operations.
A man known by the name of Gash is one of these timber jockeys. He’s got a past he’s trying to forget, and he makes use of the local narcotic to ease his pain—until he’s recruited by the colonists to join their insurrection against the company. This rebellion is only one of several storylines.
When an ancient artifact is discovered on Evergreen, a heretic priest back on Earth becomes convinced it’s the link that will prove his theory about the existence of an extraterrestrial “City of God.” Dr. Nikira forms an expedition to Evergreen that includes renowned archaeology professor Luis Escobedo, his wife, Filamena, and his estranged son, Maximo. Unknown to the professor, his wife has recently put an end to a brief but passionate affair with Maximo, her stepson. She chastises herself for the weakness that led her to the affair, and is now determined to stay true to her husband. However, when Maximo unexpectedly joins the expedition, she must deal with the constant temptation of his presence.
Traveling aboard the same ship that will take them to Evergreen is Eamon, a young man wracked by both guilt and a need for vengeance. After years of searching, Eamon believes he’s finally tracked down the man responsible for his mother’s death. He intends to find the man and kill him. In order to do so, he has contracted himself to join the timber jockey workforce, which is made up mostly of debtors and convicts.
At this future point of man’s exploration of space, several inhabitable planets have been discovered, but, as yet, not a single intelligent species outside of mankind has been found. However, an exobiologist studying a primate species on Evergreen believes the “ursu” may be only thousands of years away from evolving into a sort of primitive intelligence. She’ll discover these creatures have a past as well as a future.
However, there’s another intelligence on Evergreen. One not so readily visible. I won’t give it away, but suffice to say it leads this tale and all of its characters into one incredible climax.
As for the relevant issue of the environment, it’s not something Golden slaps you across the face with. No character ever broaches it—there’s no editorializing. But, by the end of the book, the question is clear. Should mankind be allowed to do whatever he wants with whatever planet he encounters. Should he be able to do whatever he wants with planet Earth?
Evergreen has everything you look for in a great science fiction read. Believably tormented characters, unique world-building, realistic dialogue, adventure, exploration, alien lifeforms, conflict, resolution . . . by the time the book ended, I only wished it was longer. I wanted more of this alien world, and wanted to know what happened to these characters next—at least those who still survived the final page.