This is an adventure story of encountering a different culture. It is also a love story between people of vastly different cultures. In addition it is an allegory of growing up stoned in the 60's. Read it for what it says about where we are going, or should I say, where our technology is taking us.
Like many other multivolume tales, this is not really one story. There is an overall plot that is VERY up to date, but many of the books in this could stand on their own. The story of the flower children was current when this was started, it has been over forty years in the making, though it has been in pretty much this form for the last twenty.
Alan was doing remarkably well in his courses. With some off-the-record help from their Systems Administrator, he finds he can make his way into secured data areas. When he does he finds secrets about his parents and crew that shock him, almost as much as the secrets he finds out about himself.
This is a short story of an episode in Alan's life on Gordon's Lamp four years before he touches Kassidorian soil. It introduces the important members of the crew of Gordon's lamp.
Paperback also includes 'A Dry Seed'
Desa has finally decided this is the year to make her trip to the largest city of this basin. While she's beginning to plan that trip, a young man comes in off the desert asking to learn to read. She soon learns he needs a mother more than a reading teacher, and wonders why she let herself get involved in this so soon before her trip.
Then when he abandons her, she is hurt more than she would have thought, but is more determined than ever to escape Yoonbarla and the hills of Wescarp. It's an adventure getting ready for the trip and the annual logging party, but when that boy returns, her real adventure begins.
By the end of this volume, Desa knows the facts of Alan's origin, but she does not sense even a whisp of the added responsibility she has taken on by offering to teach this boy to read.
Paperback also includes 'Wizard Run'
Alfred must put the loss of his son behind him and press ahead with his plans to remain with the study planet while the main expedition moves to 61 Cygni B. Those plans are going well enough till he finds out the natives can read memories, leaving all of their civilization exposed in Alan's brain.
Ava is determined to study the signals Alan finds because they are the key to the native's data system. She will stop at nothing, even the greatest sacrilige their society knows.
Desa finds the boat ride down the Lhar long and lazy, but her eager young student is growing more attached and wants to show his love by total monogamy. That is definitely slowing her circulation, and starting to frustrate Luray, who needs affection to counteract the withdrawal from yaag.
But it is the starship attack and their trek thru the wilderness that gives them their greatest challenges. It is the meetings in certain castles in native cities that should concern the Angels more. If they knew of them.
Alan makes it to Zhlindu and in a few short local years, thinks he is in the 'and they lived happily ever after' part of his adventure. Ava finds the native data system harder to crack than she thought, until she finally gets some help from an ancient wizard that she suspects is a virus in her own logic. Desa buys the yandrille she came to the city for and wonders if her bandmates will finally lure her away from Alan.
Then a detective appears at Desa's door, telling her that they are being hunted by strange beings. Ava finds she must deal with her clone sister or face the gravest penalty of all, and the most extremist bishop calls for the planet's destruction. It is only after they are captured that Desa learns the full extent of the additional responsibility she has taken on by teaching Alan about the world, and the full price her heart will have to pay. The chase takes them across the city, across the planet and into the nature of reality itself.
Note:- It is possible to read this story without the other two of the trilogy. The later stories of the Gordon's Lamp expedition (Tdeshi Quest, Aluminum Quest, Tangle in the Dark and Vermin Rising) will make more sense after reading this.
When people talk they use a lot of names. To take out those names makes their conversation sound very contrived. In a story the size of this one, some people may want a guide to keep them all straight, especially those who are not major characters or locations.