by Mike Resnick
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Kilimanjaro is Mike Resnick's follow up to his award-winning Kirinyaga series. A century after Koriba exiled himself from Kirinyaga, the Eutopian world is thriving, although in a manner that would have been anathema to the Kikuyu mundumugu. The Maasai, however, have looked at the lessons the Kikuyu learned on Kirinyaga and have determined they could build their own utopian world, although with a very different definition of "utopia" than the one the Kikuyu had.
Resnick examines the formative years of Kilimanjaro in a series of short tales, all of which center on the only professional historian to live on Kilimanjaro, David ole Saitoti. Just as Koriba was involved in all the major decisions on Kirinyaga, so, too, is David involved in Kilimanjaro. Where they differe is that while Koriba was something of an autocrat, David is merely an advisor, and an unofficial one at that. One of the lessons learned from Kirinyaga is that no matter the intentions, the past cannot be recreated, but David is on Kilimanjaro to help find precedents for the nascent colony.
Kilimanjarans have to deal with many of the same issues as Kirinyaga, but rather than pull from Maasai tradition, as the Kirinyagans did with Kikuyu tradition, the Kilimanjarans are open to the legal precedents of others and realize that the future is beckoning to them and must be, if not embraced, at least accomodated. Although each decision made is rational, Resnick tends to stack the deck so his desired outcome is seen as the only legitimate one. At one point, this leads to an issue when a Caucasian, William Blumlein, is elected to lead Kilimanjaro.
Resnick portrays Blumlein as the perfect choice for the role. He is not tied to any one of the Maasai clans, he is capable, honest, and wants to see Kilimanjaro succeed. However, his selection carries strong overtones of European paternalism. Even with the advice of David, who first proposed Blumlein as the leader, and the support of the Council of Elders, Kilimanjaro is depicted as a world which is settled by Africans, but need the guidance of a European to thrive and survive.
In the end, the Kilimanjarans learn that to have any hope of creating a utopian society requires the ability to evolves as a society, although Resnick shows this through a limited set of characters and not all may agree with this analysis. Nevertheless, characters in Kilimanjaro represent the pastoralists, the urbanites, immigrants, professionals and non-professionals. Resnick is able to give his planetoid the feel of a complex world, but not one that is too large. It is completely believable that everyone would only be separated from other Maasai on Kilimanjaro by one or two people.
Kilimanjaro is a worthy successor to Kirinyaga tackling man of the same themes from the earlier work and applying different solutions. Taken with Kirinyaga, Kilimanjaro demonstrates who a science fictional model can be used to explore a variety of potential activities and solutions and exploring the potential ramifications. Just as the solutions for Kirinyaga aren't necessarily right for other worlds (or even for that one), the same can be said for Kilimanjaro, although Resnick has not traced the results of David's advice for a long enough period to determine the ultimate fate of Kilimanjaro.
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