“The Ultimate Earth”

Digging out a few more Jack Williamson pieces.

Yes, eventually the Lovecraft series will continue as well as new stuff showing up.

Raw Feed (2001): “The Ultimate Earth”, Jack Williamson, 2000.Ultimate Earth

I believe that Williamson first published in 1928, and it’s good to see him still publishing good stories.

This story ricochets about the universe with a scope and pace of the old space opera Williamson wrote early in his career. Yet he also brings in the relatively new sf device of nanotechnology, here “nanobots”.

The plot is set in the far future with an Earth depopulated by cometary impacts and then repopulated by the efforts of a moon outpost – itself later wrecked by an impact. The members of that outpost are cloned.  (They seem to be partially made up of people who left earth right before the killing impacts.)

The clones, raised by a computer, are discovered by archaeologist Sandor Pen who treats them well as children but, as they grow older, he treats them more like scientific curiosities or museum exhibits than as real people. Museum exhibits are exactly what they are as Sandor Pen restores the moon station to its pre-impact state.

Nor does he allow the main base inhabitants to return to Earth.

When they try escape the moon and return to Earth, landing at sort of a Disneyland (or Las Vegas) style theme park with humanity’s famous monuments from all different periods there and android actors.

The narrator and his fellow escapee also find that humanity has entered a close symbiosis with implanted nanobots who not only repair bodies but alter moods and drives. It’s not exactly mind control, just mind moderation (And it reminded me of Williamson’s classic “With Folded Hands”, another tale of society’s actions be controlled by technological means. Both stories deal with questions of freedom and the value of being able to make the wrong decision.)

The escapees eventually do find a place for themselves when they go on a mission to track down a plague that has been destroying plastics and organics on colony worlds.

The story takes an unexpected but still satisfying turn, when the escapees’ bravery finds a solution concocted by Sandor Pen’s long-lost twin who he has been searching for him for centuries.

[Williamson expanded his story into Terraforming Earth. It was not his last novel. That was The Stonehenge Gate published in 2005 when Williamson was 97.]

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

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