The Companions

The Companions

3.8 13
by Sheri S. Tepper

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Three planets have been recently discovered in deep space, and prosaically named to reflect their respective environments. Jungle, lush and foreboding, swallowed up an eleven-member exploratory team more than a decade earlier, while hot, harsh, and dusty Stone turned out to be phenomenally rich in rare ore, the most profitable new world to be found in a century.


Three planets have been recently discovered in deep space, and prosaically named to reflect their respective environments. Jungle, lush and foreboding, swallowed up an eleven-member exploratory team more than a decade earlier, while hot, harsh, and dusty Stone turned out to be phenomenally rich in rare ore, the most profitable new world to be found in a century. But it is the third, Moss, that could well prove to be the most enigmatic . . . and dangerous.

Enlisted by the Planetary Protection Institute -- an organization founded to assess new worlds for potential development and profit -- famed linguist Paul Delis has come to Moss to determine whether the strange multicolored shapes of dancing light observed on the planet's surface are evidence of intelligent life. With Delis is his half sister, Jewel, the wife of one of the explorers lost on Jungle. Working together, they are to determine the true nature of the “Mossen” and decipher the strange "language" that accompanies the phenomenon.

Yet the great mysteries of this bucolic world -- three-quarters covered in wind-sculpted, ever-shifting moss -- don't end with the inexplicable illuminations; there is the puzzle of the rusting remains of a lost fleet of Earth ships, moldering on a distant plateau. Perhaps the biggest question mark is Jewel Delis herself and her mission here at the far reaches of the galaxy. Leaving an overpopulated homeworld that is rapidly becoming depleted of the raw materials needed for human survival, Jewel is a member of a radical underground group opposing a recent government edict that will eliminate all of the planet's “nonessential” living inhabitants. And it is here, at the universe's unexplored edge, where the fate of endangered creatures may ultimately be decided -- though it will mean defying ruthless and unforgiving ruling powers to repair humankind's disintegrating relationship with the beasts of the Earth.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
Tepper is admired for the astonishing revelations she springs on her readers, the most famous of these occurring in Grass and The Family Tree. The Companions delivers many epiphanies, not all pleasant -- the one at the end is a real horror -- and its conclusion is the author's most satisfying yet. — Fiona Kelleghan
Publishers Weekly
Fans will hail Hugo nominee Tepper's latest (after 2002's The Visitor), with its compelling story of an ordinary woman flung into extraordinary circumstances, but interesting ideas left undeveloped, awkward transitions from first to third person and unfair withholding of information may annoy others. Earth, incredibly overcrowded, has passed a new law prohibiting nonhuman life on the planet. Jewel Delis, dog keeper and member of an underground animal-rights group, wrangles her way to the planet Moss with several dogs, ostensibly to help her unpleasant half brother Paul, a linguist, figure out the peculiar language of the planet's varied inhabitants. Jewel finds Moss every bit as odd as advertised, with strange and dangerous plants, fantastic dances performed by creatures that may or may not be intelligent, and a group of humans descended from the crew of a spaceship that crash-landed years earlier. But figuring out how the Mossen communicate is only the beginning, as Jewel and her dogs get sucked into a portal, where Moss, Mars, the dogs, a missing alien race and Jewel's ex-husband collide. As usual in this author's novels, overt themes of ecology and feminism combine with thrilling mystery, and just as typically, a deus ex machina-here aliens stepping in to save the day-makes for a less than emotionally satisfying ending. Still, Tepper talks about important issues, besides excelling at world-building and at creating strong and independent characters. (Sept. 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Twenty-eighth-century Earth is covered with interconnected towers. There is no green space, and an organization called In God's Image-Humans First and Only wants to ensure that there are no animals taking up precious resources. Arkists are attempting to save Earth plants and animals by buying out-of-the-way planets and seeding them with Earth flora and fauna. Jewel Delis, unbeknownst to her unbalanced but gifted linguist brother, Paul, is an Arkist and an employee of the Exploration and Survey Corps. Sand, Jungle, and Moss, recently discovered planets, might be inhabited by intelligent life-or not. Paul is sent to find out whether there is a native intelligent species, and he takes Jewel along as a gofer. He, of course, does not know that she has a mission of her own that involves the dogs that she insists travel with her. Meanwhile the Orskimi, an alien race, are planning to start a war between the Derac and the humans to take over the planets belonging to both races. This summary just scratches the surface of this wonderfully complex, issue- and character-driven science fiction novel. All the plots and plotting are drawn together in a satisfying and realistic conclusion that will surprise some and leave a knowing smile on the faces of others. Although not a purchase for those libraries with a small young adult collection budget, this adult title should be kept in mind for SF fans as well as budding feminists and animal rights activists. It should be short-listed for Hugo and Nebula awards. VOYA CODES: 5Q 3P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Will appeal with pushing; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003,Eos/HarperCollins, 462p., Ages 15 to Adult.
—Timothy Capehart
Library Journal
The planet Moss holds many mysteries for the two human groups sent to survey the planet and assess its potential for human colonization and profit. Accompanying her linguist brother, Paul, Jewel Delis has her own agenda for exploring Moss. As a member of the "arkist" movement, she seeks hospitable planets to provide homes for Earth's animal population, now threatened with extinction as the planet's government seeks to make room for the growing human population. As Jewel and her specially bred companion dogs explore the planet's surface, they uncover the world's true indigenous population, as well as a hidden group of humans descended from colonists stranded there generations ago. Each group holds secrets that, when put together, reveal an immediate threat from a long-forgotten race of technologically advanced predators. Tepper (The Visitor) once again confronts timely issues-in this case, the potential conflict between animal rights and human survival-with sensitivity and imagination. Her characters, whether human, animal, or alien, resonate with realism, while her imagined worlds come to vivid life as more than simply background. Highly recommended. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Hypercomplicated, animal-centered SF saga from the author of The Visitor (2002), etc. By the 28th century, IGY-HFO, a religious-political group espousing human domination as a god-given right, rules Earth-meaning that there's no longer room for animals. Under the Law of Return, all humans born elsewhere may return to Earth (the colony worlds pay huge bribes to Earth politicians to ensure that the law is maintained) while millions of "concs," artificial humanoids of limited intelligence but useful as toys, are permitted-and nobody seems to know where they come from. Jewel Delis, a secret arkist (arkists buy suitable planetoids as refuges for the animals banned on Earth) works as a gofer for her sociopathic genius-linguist brother Paul-and she's also involved with people who've secretly bred a bigger, longer-lived variety of dog: creatures smart enough to talk. Paul's latest job will be on planet Moss, where supposed intelligent natives appear as weird insubstantial lights. Jewel agrees to join him, so long as she can take the dogs along. On Moss, Jewel will find among other things that the "native" Mossen aren't beings at all, but messages: the true native willogs can't see, hear, or speak. She'll also discover human survivors from a ship that crashed centuries before, fall into a metadimension called Splendor that may be the gateway to paradise, and stumble across a deadly power struggle involving humans and several alien species. Nothing, of course, is ever what it appears to be. Tepper isn't quite in full control here-there are several elaborations too many-but what she offers is less a book than an absorbing, joyous, enveloping, sometimes all-but-overwhelming experience.

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The Companions
A Novel

Chapter One

The Place

The moss world, so said one XT-ploitation writer who had reviewed first-contact images of it, was a Victorian parlor of a planet, everywhere padded and bolstered, its cliffs hung with garlands, its crevasses softened with cushions, every cranny silk-woven, every surface napped into velvet. Here were peridot parklands where moss piled itself into caverned outcrops of sapphire shade. There were violet valleys, veiled in lavender and wine across a mat of minuscule, multicolored moss beads. In that clearing the morning light shone on infant parasols, ankle high, that by noon had sprung upward to become umbrellas, guyed with hair-thin fibers, ribs flung wide to hold feather-light sails that turned softly, softly through the afternoon, shading the sporelings beneath.

Along the canyons were fragrant forests where every footfall released scents that evoked aching nostalgia, as though racial memory held sensations undetected for centuries: Cedar perhaps? Sandalwood? Maybe piñon or frankincense? Maybe something older than any of those? The riversides were endless alleys cushioned in aquamarine and jade, hung with curtains that moved like the waves of a shifting ocean, hiding, then disclosing -- so it was claimed -- the flame-formed inhabitants of this place.

If, that is, the Exploration and Survey Corps really saw them. If the people from Planetary Protection Institute really saw them. After each sighting the men sought confirmation from their complicated devices and found no evidence of the beings they had perceived. The machines confirmed small grazing and burrowing creatures, yes; they confirmed tall, gaunt trees that served as scaffolding for the epiphytic fabric of the world, but these others ... these wonders ... Everyone described the same shapes, the same behaviors, the same colors. Formed like flames, endlessly dancing, an evanescent blaze in the morning, a shimmering shadow in the dusk. Rarely seen, unmistakable when seen, but never yet recorded ...

"Along that ridge, shining, a whole line of them ..."

"Right. I saw them. Like huge candles ..."

What had they seen? That was undoubtedly the question.

A Garr'ugh shipclan of the Derac, a race nomadic by nature, had found Moss quite by accident when their clan-ship was sucked into an instability at one arm of the galaxy and spewed out in another. Subsequently, the exploration and survey of the three inner planets -- the rock world, the jungle world, the moss world -- were farmed out on shares to Earthian Enterprises. The Derac were accustomed to farming out work to Earthers. Humans prided themselves on their work -- an emotion felt, so far as anyone knew, only by humans, as most other starfaring races considered "work" a sign of serfdom, which among them it invariably was. Earthers felt differently. They had their own Exploration and Survey Corps, ESC, and their own Planetary Protection Institute, PPI, a branch of the Interstellar Planetary Protection Alliance, of which Earth was a member. More importantly, Earthers were a settling type of people who seemed not to mind staying in one place as long as it took to do an adequate job of assessing new planets. Accordingly, Earth Enterprises, on behalf of PPI and ESC, was awarded a contract by the Derac to explore and survey, using, of course, the IPPA guidelines governing such activities on newly discovered worlds.

Accordingly they came. They saw. They were conquered.

Two-thirds of the planet's surface was taken up by the mosslands where the Earthers sought to answer IPPA's primary question: Did a native people exist? Time spun by, a silver web; they felt what they felt and saw what they saw, but they could not prove what they felt or saw was real. They thought, they felt there was a people, peoples upon Moss, but did a people really exist?

Did the men and women of PPI themselves exist? Their days on Moss went by like dreams passed in a chamber of the heart, a systole of morning wind, a throb of noon sun, an anticipatory pulsation of evening cool that was like the onset of apotheosis, a day gone by in a handful of heartbeats as they waited for something marvelous that would happen inevitably, if they were simply patient enough.

Patience wasn't enough. IPPA required specific information about newly discovered worlds. Was the ecology pristine or endangered? Were there intelligent inhabitants, and if there were, were they indigenous, immigrants, or conquerors? Did they occupy the entire planet? Were they threatened? Did they consider themselves a part of or the owners of the world on which they lived? Were other races of intelligent creatures native to the world, or had any been imported or rendered extinct? If there were various views on these matters among the inhabitants, might they be amenable to referring the matters to IPPA for resolution? These questions had to be answered! These and a thousand more!

Moss could not be opened to habitation, trade, or visitation until it was certified by IPPA. Moss could not be certified by IPPA until the information was received. The information could not be received until the blanks in the forms were filled in, but the blanks in the forms remained exactly that.

How could one determine prior claims from creatures that fled like visions? Were they inhabitants? Possibly, though they were as likely to be events. Often, truly, they seemed to be hallucinogenic happenings, light and motion flung together by wind and imagination. Perhaps they were a new kind of creature: ecological animations! Such suggestions met with incomprehension back on Earth, where the carbon life-form branch office of IPPA was located.

Where IPPA was all judgment, Earth's own ESC made no judgments at all. The only task of Exploration and Survey was to record everything, to take note of everything, to determine the history of everything and establish not only how one thing related to another, but also whether each thing fit into a category that would be meaningful to intelligent persons of various races.

The Companions
A Novel
. Copyright © by Sheri Tepper. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sheri S. Tepper is the author of more than thirty resoundingly acclaimed novels, including The Waters Rising, The Margarets, The Companions, The Visitor, The Fresco, Singer from the Sea, Six Moon Dance, The Family Tree, Gibbon's Decline and Fall, Shadow's End, A Plague of Angels, Sideshow, and Beauty; numerous novellas; stories; poems; and essays. She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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Companions 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After 375 pages I couldnt care less about the charcters in this book. I would like my money and time back on this one, award winner or not. It isnt worth the time.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Headline says it all. I can't even finish is that dull! Save your money.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first ebook review, but in addition to loving this book i've found that despite reading it months ago i still find concepts, scenes & characters frim this book popping into my head. I loved this book! I eish there were more like it, but it is so unique, thats what is great about. I suppose i could say that if u enjoyed the movie Avatar, it is up your alley. Congrats to the author for such a FANTASTIC creation!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cant find enough superlatives for this astonishing book
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