Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Robert F. Young's short novel Eridahn definitely shows its origins from the short story "When Time Was New" (If, 12/64). Unfortunately, it demonstrates these roots through a dated quality nearly across the board.
Eridahn tells the story of a time traveler named Carpenter who has been sent back to the late Cretaceous period to determine how a set of human bones became fossilized in a period before any humans existed. What he found, as he traversed the land in a triceratops-shaped vehicle, were two children, aged 11 and 9 who claimed to be a princess and prince from Greater Mars who had been kidnapped and brought to Eridahn, their name for Earth. The story follows Carpenter as he attempts to rescue the children from the kidnappers and return them to Mars.
Through the use of "hearrings," Young is able to bypass the problems which translation would cause, although the children's ability to understand and think in terms of modern humans tends to be a bit jarring. In fact, all the Martians Carpenter meets are readily able to accept the fact that, despite looking like a Martian he is not a Martian.
Deidre and Skip, the Martian royalty, are standard precocious SF children, with a high gee-whiz factor. This may have been more realistic in the early 1960s when the short story was written, but by 1983 when the novel was published, it was already outdated. Similarly, having Carpenter refer to his co-workers as Miss Sands and Mr. Fields (and they in turn calling him Mr. Carpenter) seems very stilted when reading this book in 1998, ostensibly the very year Carpenter normally lives in.
At times, Young tries to deal with a variety of topics, such as mental conditioning and rebellion against authority, but in each case he shies away from any full exploration of the issue. In another scene, in which he tries to demonstrate how horrible the kidnappers really are, he fails because he backs away from the action before anything happens.
Eridahn may work very well as a young adult novel, although it is not marketed as one. As a novel for adults, it tends to be rather simplistic, even when dealing with the dichotomies between emotion and desensitizing people to their emotions for the sake of logic.
Purchase this book from .