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I don't review books I don't like!
*****= An all-time favorite
****The Far Side of Evil
by Sylvia Louise Engdahl
Reviewed April 8, 2003.
Walker & Company, New York, 2003 (revised). Originally published in 1971. 324 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF ENG).
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003: #2, Science Fiction and Fantasy
The Far Side of Evil tells another story about Elana, the main character in Enchantress From the Stars, which is one of my all-time favorite books. The stories of the books aren’t really intertwined, so you can read one without having read the other. Enchantress From the Stars is for young adults, so The Far Side of Evil is published as a book for young adults, but it’s really more for adults or older teens.
Like all good science fiction, The Far Side of Evil is about ideas and makes you think deeply. I’m not sure that I agree with all the underlying ideas, but the novel definitely made me think. I always enjoy spending time with Sylvia Engdahl’s deep-thinking characters, and this novel had some fascinating ethical dilemmas.
Elana has just graduated from the Federation Anthropological Service Academy. She’s given an assignment to observe a planet in the “Critical Stage,” on the verge of nuclear war. The Federation is a large group of highly evolved civilizations from all over the universe. The story goes that all of them have been through a Critical Stage when they had the technology to destroy their own planet, but instead they turned their energies to exploring space and thus stopped needing to war against one another.
On the planet, Elana makes a friend and tries to blend in. Then she makes contact with another agent who doesn’t want to follow orders and simply observe. He believes that if he intervenes, he can stop the planet Toris from destroying itself. Elana disagrees, and must put her life on the line to try to stop him.
I’m not sure I agree with the premise that if we devote our energies to space exploration and colonization, wars would no longer be needed. The scenario fit the old days of the Cold War, but the assumptions didn’t seem to allow for the hazards that face us today with the danger that a nuclear holocaust could be set off by terrorists or a rogue dictator. That made the book seem a little dated, but it still was a gripping and thought-provoking story.
Other reviews of books by Sylvia Louise Engdahl:
Enchantress From the Stars
Enchantress From the Stars Audiobook
This Star Shall Abide
The Children of the Star Trilogy
Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund. All