Rabbitlike aliens from outer space colonize Earth during humankind’s Second World War in a delightfully funny and thought-provoking science fiction adventure
The Quozl just need somewhere to call home. A gentle race of extraterrestrial rabbits, they have a propensity for reproduction that has left their home planet, Quozlene, dangerously overpopulated, and in their search for greener and less-crowded pastures, they have discovered the perfect place to start over: the third planet away from a healthy, warming sun. What they don’t realize is that this world they call Shiraz is already inhabited by a species of violent sentient creatures known as humans.
But there’s no going back now. In the midst of the brutal and helpfully distracting global conflict the Shirazians call World War II, the colony ship lands undetected, and the space rabbits immediately go into hiding. But a secret like the Quozl can be concealed for only so long, especially when their numbers start to increase and certain rebellious members of the long-eared society decide the time is ripe to claim their place in a world they believe is rightfully theirs.
One of the most admired and prolific authors in the science fiction arena, Alan Dean Foster will delight readers who hunger for something different with this funny, thoughtful, and wildly inventive novel of first contact and coexistence. Once you meet the Quozl, you will never forget them.
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About the Author
The New York Times–bestselling author of more than one hundred ten books, Alan Dean Foster is one of the most prominent writers of modern science fiction. Born in New York City in 1946, he studied filmmaking at UCLA, but first found success in 1968 when a horror magazine published one of his short stories. In 1972 he wrote his first novel, The Tar-Aiym Krang, the first in his Pip and Flinx series featuring the Humanx Commonwealth, a universe he has explored in more than twenty-five books. He also created the Spellsinger series, numerous film novelizations, and the story for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. An avid world traveler, he lives with his family in Prescott, Arizona.
Read an Excerpt
By Alan Foster
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1989 Alan Dean Foster
All rights reserved.
Something was wrong.
No one on the Sequencer had been able to tell him exactly what it might be, but he could sense it. Very unscientific, he reprimanded himself. Contrary to all his training. But whatever it was, logic failed to vanquish it.
Nor was he alone in his feelings. The uncertainty was there in the recycled air for anyone with half a nose to sniff, was visible in the posturing of his fellow Quozl.
He asked questions of those who might know something. The directness of some of the replies, which would have been unthinkably rude under normal circumstances, was confirmation enough that he was not alone in his unease. The interrogated bristled at his straightforward inquiries and he fussed and hissed under his breath at their reactions.
There was no way you could dismiss it: everyone on board was on edge.
He checked his attire carefully before leaving his room. The thin, almost fluorescent plastic slats that formed rings around his thighs and upper arms flashed colorfully in the subdued light. He was clad in a snug but not constricting one-piece jumpsuit of mild purple with black speckling. With the seventh finger of his right hand he adjusted the small opening in back, twitched his short, thick tail to make sure the suit wasn't binding.
A glance in the mirror revealed that one of the four earrings in his right ear was loose. He tightened it, turned slightly, and raised the ear fully to admire the effect. He adjusted the bandana around his neck, the two scarves that encircled each upper arm, and lastly the yellow and pink sash that crossed from shoulder to waist. When going to question senior officials it was always best to dress in a respectfully subdued fashion.
There was no need to shave again. Two narrow curves revealed by the U-cut neckline of his jumpsuit marked him as an elite scout. The curlicues and triangles cut from his short black fur elsewhere were purely decorative. The pair of white stripes that marked him from muzzle to tail were natural and needed no tonsorial enhancement.
Time to get the blades in his shaver resharpened, he reminded himself. The delicate cuts on the backs of his hands were becoming harder to maintain. No possibility of replacing the blades. The ship could not recycle everything forever while maintaining peak efficiency, and there were items of greater importance that had first demand on the engineering department's resources.
Of course with planetfall due any day now it would only be a matter of time before the Sequencer's exhausted reserves could be replenished a hundred times over. The wealth of an entire new world would be theirs to utilize.
Except there was a problem—or so the rumors claimed.
As he left his room and strode out into the corridor he found himself admiring anew the paneling that covered walls and ceiling. It was a near-perfect duplication of the wood of the Tawok. He smiled inwardly. Artists and builders had long shared the same dream; to fashion a starship entirely from wood. The ideal fusion of the aesthetic and the practical. It worked well in sculpture but not in equations.
The Sequencer was metal and ceramic and plastic, but its decorators had filled it with real wood and expert reproductions. The ship's interior was soothing to the eye and reassuring to the Quozl soul, the next best thing to contemplating a real forest.
As he left the residential area behind he found himself wondering how the Sequencer's sister ships were faring. Passes-Over-Beyond had left Quozlene orbit a year ahead of the Sequencer. Races-Lower-Stars was due to have entered underspace half a year after Sequencer. There was, of course, no way for them to communicate with one another, just as there was no way for them to communicate with home.
A variable term, home. It lay ahead of them now, not behind.
One settlement ship per year, each directed to a different system determined to contain habitable worlds. That had been the pattern for some time now. No one talked about what the inhabitants of a ship would do if the survey turned out wrong and the system they had been directed to proved to hold no inhabitable planets. Settlement ships could not be sufficiently equipped for second attempts. Even though this was common knowledge there was no lack of volunteers from perennially overpopulated Quozlene to fill the ships. It was an honor to spread the Quozl through the firmament, and a greater one to perhaps perish in the attempt.
Occasionally Looks-at-Charts worried about his lack of Quozl spirit and would have to retire to a chosen shrine to meditate. It was his failing to consider living better than dying, the amount of honor one might accrue in the latter notwithstanding. His advisors tried to comfort him by pointing out that his failing was one reason why he had been selected for training as a scout.
You have chosen a difficult profession, they'd told him. One you may not even have the chance to practice. You will suffer personal and possibly physical anguish as a result.
He turned a corner, wondering when the suffering might begin.
The passageway twisted and turned in simulation of an ancient Quozl tunnel. As he progressed he passed more and more fellow ship-citizens. Before fifth-generation Elders he lowered eyes and ears. Members of the sixth like himself he either ignored or eyed openly, depending on their sex or status. Youngsters of the seventh generation avoided him lest they receive a chastising glare or noncontact cuff for appearing too friendly.
He could have taken transport forward but much preferred to walk, delighting in the shifting smells and sight as Tawok gave way to Rebarl and especially the deep maroon and black Sasum. Its perfume flared his nostrils, pungent and rich as only honorific polishing and cleaning could make it.
Art filled the unwood places, occupying the mind's eye when honest grain and color were absent. Some of it was static, some kinetic. Looks-at-Charts studied it all with equal respect. Most of it was familiar but occasionally there would be a new piece, rendered by an artist of the present generation. Those considered to be masterworks he automatically bobbed before. Many had been carried and cared for lovingly all the way from Quozlene itself, parting gifts from the homeworld. Though their creators were long dead, their work lived on to inspire new generations of artists who might choose also to work in paint or sandbark or dyeshot.
He turned the next corner to the music of giggling and whispers. There were two of them and in his artistic perusing he'd almost run into them. Having interrupted their space rendered their laughter polite. One was brown-spotted cream color with brown facial and body stripes. Her companion was pure beige with white striping. Scarves and shaving placed them in food service. Not of the elite or of his class, but comely for all that. What Quozl female wasn't comely?
They were ready enough. A Quozl was ready most of its waking hours, ready and eager. Furthermore they appeared to be off-shift. Not much time in the span of a day, ample time in the span of love. All four green eyes that gazed openly back at him indicated he could have either or both of them. He wondered how much of their interest was piqued by his posture and how much by his rank and unusual occupation.
He automatically checked the chronometer on this workbelt. Plenty of time. When it was done with, all three parted satisfied, he forward, they back to work. As it always did, the encounter filled him with fresh Quozl purpose. Having noted their names and places of work he fully intended to look them up again sometime. Perhaps they could bristle together for several days running. They had been refreshing individually and in concert, a change from his usual routine.
He did not worry about the slim chance of having sired offspring. In the whole seven-generation history of the Sequencer there had been only two such incidents. The first had been an innocent error involving the ingestion of expired oocide. The second had been, insofar as the court which had judged the case had been able to determine, deliberate, and both parents had been ejected into interstellar space.
Hard to believe, but true. The records of the third-generation were there for all to peruse. Two Quozl had violated the onboard edicts restricting procreation. One incident in seven generations was not a bad record, but you still had to be on your guard, still found yourself sometimes wondering. If he did sire an unauthorized embryo and was determined to be the father, he would soon find himself embracing vacuum.
It was the only way. Penalties had to be severe lest chaotic coupling reign. The Quozl were incredibly fecund. Without restrictions the Sequencer would find itself fatally overpopulated within a couple of generations. Which was why there were settlement ships in the first place. Pressure existed on the homeworld to expand despite all the chemical restraints Quozl biologists had developed. Onboard births were permitted, but only according to strictly enforced quotas.
So the pair he had coupled with would not become pregnant. In a few hours they would be ready again and so would he. Without drugs to render them infertile both would surely have conceived.
It was appropriate that the symbol which adorned each settlement ship represented the empty female natal pouch.
As he entered the central recreation oval he was able to see the huge, complex sculpture by the adored artist Grand- cuts-Standover, a priceless gift from the citizens of a dozen large Quozlene cities to the generations that would crew the Seqeuncer. It dominated the open area, reaching to the very apex of the dimpled ceiling. The sculpture had been cut from a single massive Aveltmar tree, the roots and branches having been etched by a Master of Carving. Fountains hung from its shaped and tooled branches, water collecting in pools scooped from flaring roots. Benches and lounges were scattered about its base, surrounded by growing plants whose daily needs were attended to by meticulous gardeners. On the Sequencer those who took care of growing things had the same status as engineers.
That was only fair, since it was just as important to do that which helped maintain sanity as to do that which maintained engines. Simpler to care for plastic and metal than minds made of flesh and blood.
Quozl wandered through the open place or rested and relaxed beneath the massive carved tree: courting, fighting, or simply staring at the water. Engraved in the center of the thick Aveltmar trunk was a panoply from Quozl history, fourteenth Anarchic Era. Here a Quozl warrior clad in ancient armor took a spear in the belly. Blood and intestines spilled from the gaping wound, all realistically depicted. His companion was in the process of losing his head, his attacker's sword halfway through the neck, blood gushing in a frozen explosion from the traumatized veins.
It was much the same everywhere: multiple figures of Quozl and their Dermicular mounts fighting and bleeding and dying, crushed or cut to bits. Crowning the sculpture was a photographic rendering of the Water Clans General Soft-cries- Nightly trampling several children of the enemy under the hooves of his Dermicular.
Looks-at-Charts paused for a moment (you couldn't help but pause) to soak up the violent scene. The reddish wood of the Aveltmar made the blood and torn organs appear so real, lit by the indirect lights set in the ceiling. It was a powerful reaffirmation of the Quozl spirit, restful and relaxing to his soul. Refreshed and content, he walked on.
Not far before a figure stepped in front of him. The Quozl's scarves were bright blue and off-green except for the single yellow and green he wore tight around his right thigh. His jumpsuit was green with blue slashes crisscrossing the snug material. Like Looks-at-Charts his fur was dark, though his eyes were blue and not purple like the scout's. A single strap running across his chest supported an electronic snarp, its strings and switches glinting in the soft light. Looks-at-Charts couldn't tell at a glance if it was charged for playing, but it was clear regardless that High- red-Chanter was on his way either to or from work.
"It pains me deeply to interrupt your progress in this manner, but there is a small insignificant matter that requires mutual attention."
"It's no bother at all," Looks-at-Charts replied appropriately. "I am only sorry you find it necessary to waste your valuable time on unworthy communication. A brief note to my room would surely have sufficed."
"Electronic communication lacks eloquence." High-red-Chanter shifted nervously from one huge foot to the other. "Though I likewise regret the loss of time, I find it unavoidable."
"Since you have taken the time to interrupt your important schedule, the least I can do is pause to listen." Looks-at- Charts promptly assumed combat position, selecting the Aki stance, ears swept safely back behind the head and down, one arm tucked back and ready to block, the other held forward in preparation for striking. His knees were bent and his toes raised, ready to kick.
High-red-Chanter chose the Omo bracket, both arms held parallel to each other and the floor. It was less traditional, more daring. Other members of the crew swerved around them, chatting among themselves and ignoring the two potential combatants.
Looks-at-Charts suffered some embarrassment because of their exposed position in the middle of the walkway. High-red- Chanter should have confronted him in the park courtyard or off to one side. Now neither could leave until the confrontation ended.
Wasting no time, he took one step and brought his right leg up in a formal opening kick. It was delivered with precision, stopping a thumb's length from High-red-Chanter's stomach. The musician brought his left arm down to block the kick. Foot brushed stomach and forearm grazed leg. Both Quozl assumed new stances, the initial exchange having been properly met.
Looks-at-Charts had a pretty good idea what this was all about. Simply because every nonmated male on the ship was available to every nonmated female and vice versa did not mean there was no such thing as jealousy among shipmates. There was one lustrous-furred supple young thing who worked in Agriculture who had attracted more than passing attention from both kicking, punching Quozl. Her name was Tie-grow-Green and though she tried, she could not dispel the animosity that seemed to erupt of its own accord between scout and musician whenever she was discussed.
Frankly Looks-at-Charts was surprised that High-red-Chanter hadn't tried to force the issue before now. The musician was notoriously nervous and unreasonable. Looks-at-Charts drew inspiration from the unsurpassed sculpted tree that dominated the gathering area. He would not back down. There was principle at stake here. He struck with a clenched fist.
"I'll see your genitals broiled!" the musician snarled as he leaped and twisted. Looks-at-Charts could have brought his fist up hard but naturally did not. His fingers extended to flick the lowermost edge of High-red-Chanter's jumpsuit just as his opponent spun to bring the outside part of his foot around in a scything arc. The ship sandal kissed the shaven circle on Looks-at-Charts's left cheek.
High-red-Chanter was good, Looks had to admit as he changed position once again. The fight continued, the two Quozl circling and feinting and striking. The conversation was as important as the blows they threw. Passing crew avoided them. Rarely were any rude enough to stare. Neither of the combatants paid them the least attention.
Looks-at-Charts drew his inspiration from the wooden cascade of mutilated and eviscerated figures that dominated the great wooden artifact nearby, sought strength in the frozen waterfalls of blood so lovingly rendered from the soul of the tree. High-red-Chanter sang to himself, martial music both ancient and new. Looks-at-Charts recognized much of it. He appreciated fine art and High-red-Chanter was one of the most accomplished young musicians on the ship. Looks had often admired his work.
He was not as enamored of Tie-grow-Green as the musician was, but a challenge once issued could not be ignored. If he'd walked away in front of witnesses his status would have suffered. A scout wasn't supposed to walk away from anything. Lose that and the next female might not be so interested in coupling. His frequency of intercourse might fall from a normal, healthy four or five times a day to one or two. Eventually that would impact on his work performance. He had no choice but to accept High-red-Chanter's invitation.
Excerpted from Quozl by Alan Foster. Copyright © 1989 Alan Dean Foster. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
More of a classic that Night of the Lepus or Redeeming Factors, this is no ordinary tale of Rabbit Aliens. A rich, sometimes sexy and oft comedic look at a fairly thought-out race and their dual natures; and our tendency to look at rabbits, and ourselves, in a certain way. Enjoyable and wonderfully written, this one keeps you reading. Two ears --I mean thumbs-- up!