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Downward To The Earth by Robert Silverberg (SF Masterworks # 56)

01/03/2004. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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pub: Gollancz. 213 page enlarged paperback. Price: 6.99 (UK). ISBN: 0-575-07523-6.

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Holman's Planet, now called Belzagor, has been returned to its native sentient species after it was discovered that despite their jungle surroundings and they looked liked four tusked elephants that they had an elaborate civilisation.

It is to this world that its previous administrator, Gundersen, returns to redeem himself for some of the things he did to the pachyderm Nildoror and a bi-pedal sub-species called the Sulidoror by visiting their mist country.

He also has to make a promise to return a missing human, Cedric Cullen, who the Nildoror consider a criminal. In many respects, this is a quest plot but told with such exceptional detail that you'd probably be sweating alongside Gundersen if you read this book in the middle of summer.

Oddly enough, the puzzle answer presented at the end wasn't that obvious until towards the end although the clues were laid out along the route as the ex-administrator meets people who stayed behind after everyone else had left.

Although this story is now 27 years old, it is also a stark reminder not to base alien civilisations on our own preconceived ideas to what should make one work and worth reading if you haven't done so before.

GF Willmetts

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This book has 777 votes in the sci-fi charts

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