Volume 2, Number 1, Winter, 1984

Khi To Freedom

By Ardath Mayhar

Ace paperback, May 1983, 246 pg., $2.50.
Reviewed by Neal Wilgus
January, 1984

Since I'm nominating this book for the 1984 Prometheus Award, I think it's only right that I briefly review it and sketch out my reasons for considering it anarcho-libertarian. First though—it is not a libertarian utopia such as the one in L. Neil Smith's Probability Broach, nor does it chronicle a conflict between an authoritarian society and an anarchist one as does James Hogan's Voyage from Yesteryear. If anything, it comes closest to last year's runner-up, Firedancer, by Anne Maxwell—a story of the far future where dozens of bizarre alien races interact and a colorful main character struggles to overcome impossible odds.

First, a brief synopsis: Hale Enbo, a human from a planet called Big Sandy, is an indentured scout for the Ginli, an alien race that dominates galactic society. At the beginning of the story Enbo discovers the Ginli, in violation of their own rules, torturing/vivisecting an intelligent animal he has collected for them, and he makes an escape from their spaceship and crash lands on the planet they've been studying. He quickly adapts to his new environment, is befriended by some of the natives, and soon has his first encounter with the Khi—another native race. but this one a step up the evolutionary scale, a people with the ability to move in other dimensions and even communicate with the next step up, the Hril.

Learning various superpowers from the Khi and the Hril, Enbo allows himself to be captured by the Ginli and then proceeds to reeducate them away from their old destructive ways and toward a more positive and enlightened way of doing things. This is about halfway through the book, and Enbo now takes on a new mission—this one requiring him to forget his superpowers for awhile and become a hostage to yet another despotic race, the ultimate bureaucrats called the Sdnnn. Again aided by some bizarre aliens, Enbo meets and finally defeats an extra-dimensional invader that even the Khi/Hril masters couldn't, and there's one big happy ending for our universe.

Like any two-paragraph synopsis, this may sound somewhat implausible, but Mayhar is an excellent writer and she manages to make it quite plausible and enjoyable too. There are some shortcomings, of course—the Ginli are really too stupid and clumsy to be the dominant race of the universe, and Enbo's victory over them and the other threats he faces is just too easy to generate any real tension. But again, that hardly matters because the flow of the story is so easy and natural that it carries the day.

But how is such a story anarcho-libertarian and worthy of a Prometheus nominations you ask? To find out you should read the book yourself—but in the meantime, let me point out that the recurring theme is that of Enbo resisting, escaping from, and ultimately overcoming a number of authoritarian systems. The Ginli are autocratic slavers who dominate the other races of.the galaxy, the Sdnnn are dogmatic bureaucrats intent on boring the universe to death, and the nameless invader is an even greater threat—a sort of living black hole that can be thought of as the ultimate mind-destroying dictator.

It's too early to tell, of course: if Khi to Freedom deserves the Prometheus, but it does deserve nomination, I think. Perhaps it will be edged out the way Fire Dancer was edged out by Voyage from Yesteryear. But at this stage it should be given due consideration—and after all, it is a good read.

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