Other Branches

The Return review was supposed to post yesterday. Unfortunately there seems to be some incompatibilities between Blogger and the version of AOL that I’m using. So until that gets resolved I’ll be only posting Monday through Friday. I’ll still be writing posts on the weekend. Got that must-write-a-post-every-day commitment to stick to.

Orphan of Creation

Roger MacBride Allen

© 1988

Published by Baen Books

The blurb says –

On the day after tomorrow, on a backwoods farm in Mississippi, a paleontologist unearths the bones of a creature that could never have lived in that time or place. The incredible find brings its discoverers to the deepest forests of western Africa, and face to face with a miracle older than man.

Featured MAH –

Remnant Australopithecus

The book opens with a quote from Mismeasure of Man by Stephen J. Gould –

Suppose … that one or several species of our ancestral genus Australopithecus had survived – a perfectly reasonable scenario in theory … We – that is Homo Sapiens – would have faced all the moral dilemma involved in treating a human species of distinctly inferior mental capacity. What would we have done with them – slavery? extirpation? coexistence? menial labor? reservations? zoos?

Given that Homo Sapiens has indeed done all of the above to other members of its own species it wouldn’t be surprising if we were to do the same or worse to a hominid cousin.

Our protagonist, Dr. Barbara Marchando, discovers the journal of her great-great-grandfather, Zebulon Jones, in the attic of the family home. Jones had been a slave who escaped his bondage in Mississippi, made his fortune in the North and come back to buy his former master’s plantation during the Reconstruction. The journal describes an incident during Jones’ slave days when his master, Colonel Gowrie, brought a new breed of Slave to the plantation. The new Slave was a creature that was humanlike but obviously not human and therefore would have been legal to import. The creatures make poor slaves and soon die. When Gowrie attempts to have the creatures buried in the Slave cemetery, his slaves refuse and the creatures are buried at a crossroads on the property instead.

Marchando thinks that she has discovered record of the importation of gorillas or chimps as slaves and sets out to discover the graves. Her search and excavation is part of what has me love this book. Unlike the scientists in so much fiction who have wild ridiculous theories, who dash around like brain damaged Indian Joneses and who excavate their digs with no regard to scientific procedure or documentation, Dr. Marchando is careful and methodical and makes sure to record every step of her investigation. She wants to be sure that whatever evidence she uncovers is irrefutable. Allen makes the slow uncovering of the graves suspenseful by making the process itself interesting.

So when she discovers Australopithecus bones in Mississippi soil she’s understandably shocked and confused. The discovery leads to an expedition to Africa with the possibility of finding living examples of the creature. If Australopithecus had survived into the Nineteenth century, perhaps it lived still.

Orphan of Creation is a good solid book. If I were to recommend a book I’d certainly recommend this one.