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Authors: Piers Anthony

Hope of Earth

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AMBUSH IN ATTICA

As Jes and Wona approached Athens they encountered five armed men marching down the road toward them. Jes had rearranged her homespun cloak, tying it in the masculine way, playing the part of a man. But they would soon see Wona was a woman.

“Spartans!” Wona exclaimed.

“No. Persian mercenaries,” Jes said tersely, bringing her bow down from her shoulders. “Too many to fight, too late to escape.” Her heart was pounding, but she had already appraised the opposition.

“We’ll have to take desperate measures,” Jes continued. “I’ll flee; you open your robe and scream helplessly.”

“But your oath—” cried Wona.

“I’m not deserting you!” Jes snapped. “I can take out two with arrows; you can take out one with your knife. It’s the other two we have to finesse. You must distract them, just long enough. Do you understand?”

Cunning showed through Wona’s fear. She nodded. The knife was in her hand, hidden behind a fold of her robe…

TOR BOOKS BY PIERS ANTHONY
Alien Plot
Isle of Woman
Anthonology
Letters to Jenny
But What of Earth?
Prostho Plus
Demons Don’t Dream
Race Against Time
Faun & Games
Roc and a Hard Place
Geis of the Gargoyle
Shade of the Tree
Ghost
Shame of Man
Harpy Thyme
Steppe
Hasan
Triple Detente
Hope of Earth
Yon III Wind

Zombie Lover

W
ITH
R
OBERT
E. M
ARGROFF
Dragon’s Gold
Serpents Silver
Chimaera’s Copper
Mouvar’s Magic
Ore’s Opal
The E.S.P Worm
The Ring

W
ITH
F
RANCES
H
ALL
Pretender

W
ITH
R
ICHARD
G
ILLIAM
Tales from the Great Turtle
(Anthology)

W
ITH
A
LFRED
T
ELLA
The Willing Spirit

W
ITH
C
LIFFORD
P
ICKOVER
Spider Legs

W
ITH
J
AMES
R
ICHEY AND
A
LAN
R
IGGS
Quest for the Fallen Star

W
ITH
J
ULIE
B
RADY
Dream a Little Dream

 

H
OPE OF
E
ARTH

Geodyssey: Volume 3

P
IERS
A
NTHONY

A TOM DOHERTY ASSOCIATES BOOK
NEW YORK

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NOTE: If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as “unsold and destroyed” to the publisher, and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this “stripped book.”

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

HOPE OF EARTH

Copyright © 1997 by Piers Anthony Jacob

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portions thereof, in any form.

A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010

Tor Books on the World Wide Web:
http://www.tor.com

Tor
®
is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC

ISBN: 0-812-57111-8     ISBN 978-0-8125-7111-0

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 96-53954

First edition: May 1997
First mass market edition: March 1998

Printed in the United States of America

0   9   8   7   6   5   4   3   2

CONTENTS

Introduction

1.    Commuter

2.    Scavenger

3.    Triple Ploy

4.    Arms Race

5.    Numbers

6.    Spirit Girl

7.    Bone House

8.    Rock Art

9.    Snow

10.  Trieries

11.  Princess

12.  Queen

13.  Slave

14.  Plague

15.  Khan

16.  Wall

17.  Melody

18.  Maginot

19.  Dreams and Bones

20.  Symbiosis

Author’s Note

INTRODUCTION

T
HIS IS THE THIRD VOLUME
of the
Geodyssey
series, following
Isle of Woman
and
Shame of Man,
concerning evolution, history, the nature of mankind, and the possible fate of the world. Each novel stands independently, so readers need not fear to try this one if they haven’t read the prior two, and they don’t have to read the volumes in order. Each book tells the story of a seeming family as it follows its course in both the personal and historical senses. The first novel traced three generations, or about seventy years; the second followed one generation, or about twenty years. This
third novel follows six orphaned siblings—three brothers, three sisters, of varying ages—as they grow up and love and marry in the course of about ten years of their lives. The history they experience covers five million years. Thus they are
Australopithecine
—ape-man, if you will—when they start, and modern human beings when they finish. They are usually together, and their family relationships are always the same. So for convenience in reading, they may be considered to be the same folk, though that is not possible in reality. They always speak the language of their local setting, so nothing is made of that in the novel; for this purpose we don’t care much whether it is ape-primitive or contemporary English or future Spanish. Language itself is a defining characteristic of mankind, as we shall see, but in this sense, one language is about as good as another.

What is true in reality is that all human beings are related, all descending from common ancestors and capable of interbreeding. The passions, fears, desires, and joys of all are similar, though there is much variation. So the family presented here is consistent in the human sense, and the transient details of appearance, such as skin color, hardly matter. Just think of the people herein as similar to those you know. They are, really. Yes, even in their differences. Some are healthy and handsome, but most aie imperfect. So in this novel each major character has a difference or a problem. Sam is convinced he must marry an ugly woman, and he does, though not the way he expects. Flo gets really fat, and thus is considered quite attractive in one culture, and ugly in another. Ned is brilliant, but gets seduced by a wrong woman and suffers. Jes is lanky and plain, so prefers to play at being a man, yet underneath wishes she could be a woman. Bry feels inadequate, yet is not. And Lin is lovely—and has a six-fingered hand. No, this is based on reality; some children are born with extra fingers or toes, which are often surgically removed early in their lives. One famous woman with this affliction was Anne Boleyn, second wife of England’s Henry VIII, mother of Elizabeth I. It seems to
be a shame to cut off a working finger, so Lin kept hers, but always had to hide it, because people can be truly cruel to anyone who is different. So these people have curses that are echoed by many of us, which are really more shameful in our self-images than in reality.

This is a “message” series, and the message is that the qualities that enabled our species first to survive in a difficult and dangerous world, and then to prosper, are now in danger of destroying that world. There is for example no automatic check on population growth. Originally the panthers and other predators did it, feeding on human babies as well as on other creatures. There were also limits of food, so that when a species outgrew its resources it starved. There was disease, at times devastating. Mankind has been as successful as any species in overcoming such limitations, and now dominates the planet, driving other species toward extinction. If this is not curtailed sensibly, it will lead to a truly ugly finish, because the world is not limitless.

However, those who prefer straight entertainment can skip the italicized chapter introductions and endnotes and just read the ongoing story. The permutations of history are endlessly fascinating, and challenge and love are always in style.

Chapter 1
C
OMMUTER

Five million years ago, in the western arm of the Great Rift Valley in Africa, the chimp that walked like a man was perfecting his stride. Australopithecus afarensis was forced to forage on the dangerous open ground because the forest had diminished and there was too much competition for the resources of the trees. To do this, he had to lift his upper body up and balance on his hind legs. The supposedly simple act of walking habitually on two feet—bipedalism—entailed a complicated series of bodily adjustments. The spine had to reverse part of its curve so that the head could be right above the feet, the pelvis had to be reshaped to support a torso that would otherwise sag, the feet had to straighten out the big toes and develop arches for shock absorption, and the knees had to lock so that prolonged walking would not wear them out. None of this developed quickly; probably at least a million years were required. But for the purpose of this story, it is assumed that the knees happened in a single mutation applying to the younger generation of a small roving band. Thus for the first time these folk were able to travel comfortably on two feet, and extend their range considerably.

But was bipedalism necessary? Why didn’t mankind simply range out four-footed, as the baboons did? Why undertake the formidable complications of a change unique among mammals? This may at one time have been a close call. But Australopithecus, having descended from the trees with his head set vertically, had the ability to go either way, and there was one compelling reason that two feet were better than four. It would have been better for the baboons, too, had they been able to do it.

At this stage speech would have been extremely limited, with an assortment of sounds perhaps emulating the animals they represented, and a few key connecting words. But the expressions of chimpanzees in the wild are more varied and useful than some may credit, and the brain of Australopithecus was slightly larger than that of the chimp. So probably his vocabulary was larger and more effective than the chimp’s, though not by much.

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