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Pennterra
Judith Moffett
Fantastic Books, 292 pages

Pennterra
Judith Moffett
Judith Moffett was born in 1942. She first wrote poetry and works about poets, like her 1984 book about James Merrill. In 1988 she won the first Theodore Sturgeon Award. Pennterra (1987) was her first novel. In 1988, she won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction.

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A review by Sandra Scholes

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This is Judith Moffett's first entry into the world of writing and feels fresh and interesting, and touches on a world not unlike our own and has our own human survival ethic. The one place the humans wish to go is called Pennterra, and they view it as a last ditch attempt at colonizing a planet as well as making sure humanity lives on in one way or another by their own hands. Their only problem lays in the fact that Pennterra, a lone planet, is already inhabited by aliens thought to be hostile and dangerous. Pennterra is soon inhabited by the humans who wished to leave Earth, seeing it as a dying planet. so the ones who live there already give them warning that they can stay, as long as they observe the rules. The Quaker people follow these rules to the letter, yet other humans who did not get the warning come and threaten the peace of the planet due to wanting to overthrow the planet's people and take it from them.

Being an empathic species of alien, the hrossa have an air of forgiveness about their attitude to humans, even if they are trying to take over their planet. There will be no human left alive, though if the sixers, as they are known, plan a war on them, the hrossa planet will kill them if they go that far.

Part of the novel is broken up into field study notes and diary notes. In the field study notes, Judith Moffett shows how the humans go about their daily life and how successfully they have made part of the planet their home.

Pennterra is a deep and meaningful piece littered with references to other famous works of literature to give the reader a better idea of what the hrossa really are, and how the Quakers have their own beliefs, come to investigate and understand another's beliefs also. In this story, there is no room for rigid thoughts of spirituality and belief in a god or gods, there is only the understanding that is fundamental to the novel's message. The inhabitants of Pennterra have a friend among them, KliUrrh who tells them about alien culture and in particular how Pennterra was created and how everything else began to exist including alien life. This information coupled with other stories of the aliens and how they view their lord becomes a great insight for the rest of the novel.

One story tells of "How the World Got Started," and how two gods, The One that Loves Life and Tanka Wakan, and how he entrusted the world to Tanka Wakan, hoping all would be well. This provided many problems as the people argued and wanted different things in life, yet their world remained peaceful most of the time. It is only when newcomers threaten that peace that the god becomes angry.

Judith Moffett has done well with her first novel, bringing a story of two different species of people, one human and one alien to come to understand and live among each other with peace in mind. It is never easy to see another's point of view and that is what this story is partly about and, of course, man's greed to conquer and take land for their own -- that is one of the main issues in this book. And for those who enjoyed this one, they will want to see more from her in the future.

Copyright © 2010 Sandra Scholes

Sandra Scholes enjoys reading more than anything else, catching up on her reviews, writing short stories and mourns the sudden ending of FlashForward on TV.


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