In this universe, the humans are not the center of the existence. In fact, humankind is treated like animals: hunted by some for sport and meat, protected by others as a developing intelligence. Others revere them as the wisest race in the universe. There is a constant political battle over the rights and status of the human race that come to a head as the Alliance falls apart and war breaks out between star systems. The planet of Achelo is at the center of the conflict.
I was drawn to the book by the cover and the title. “Social Evolution” promised to offer me some interesting perspectives. The novel contained several thought-provoking passages. One particular paragraph put in words an intriguing concept that rang with a omen of truth:
“It is theoretically possible for such species to evolve further physically, but destruction seems to be inevitable as a result of one particular phenomena of society: science and its resulting technology; that is, the ability to become consciously familiar with one’s environment and transform it.”
That is to say, once a species begins to alter its environment rather than being altered by it, evolution stops and the decline begins. This idea is extremely relevant at this point in time here on Earth.
Bringing us this story from a unique point of view, we are witness to the human race being considered simple animals by many and and an enlightened race by others. Some believe that humankind learned how to avoid complete destruction by surpassing the impediments of advanced society and continuing to evolve. I found the concept curious. We imagine that alien civilizations sharing our galaxy may be more advanced than our own. We so often focus on how we will perceive alien races and spend little time imagining how they might view us.
Some of the dark humor and embellishment within the story creates a satirical-like structure, reminding me of Candide. Certain characters are drawn in the extremes, such as the Umaan president who represents the epitome of megalomaniac callousness toward his own race, and the vicious Vulon commander who wants to take control of the Alliance by force. Our heroes exhibit many noble traits, but lack depth or complexity of character. I found “Umaan” and “human” to be too close of a match for comfort while reading.
3 Stars – A bold attempt at offering a unique theory of further human evolution, but the execution left me struggling. The book was too long and could have been trimmed down and reorganized to better hold reader interest for the duration.