Anvil, Christopher. Pandora’s Planet.

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1972.

Anvil never really hit the big time, but he was a popular author in the 1970s and ’80s, when he was a regular contributor to ANALOG. His signature style was wry and ironic observations and commentary about those irritating humans, and this novel (his third) is filled with that sort of thing. It’s an original on the “invasion of Earth” theme, in that the Centrans (who somewhat resemble humanoid lions) conquer our planet — but just barely.

Having fought each other for so many millennia, Earthmen are, by nature, far more adept at war than the aliens. The Centrans are naturally cooperative within their own species, which is how they’ve built up an empire — but it also means they don’t have mankind’s individualist, innovative, and competitive drive. Or their evangelical bent. Or their ability to twist the language and sell the innocent Centrans absolutely anything.

How best to keep the only semi-conquered Earth from eventually taking over the Centran Empire? Maybe if the really dangerous ones were carefully spread out, a few on this imperial colony planet and a few on that one? Of course, that’s exactly the wrong decision, both tactically and strategically, and it doesn’t take long before other planets are adopting a variety of Earth’s political and economic philosophies. And Centra seems destined to fade to a cultural backwater.

This isn’t great literature but it’s a lot of fun. And it’s also unusual in that the reader is certain to side with the aliens against the depredations of those dastardly humans.


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