March 8, 2016

Captive Universe by Harry Harrison

Title:  Captive Universe
Author:  Harry Harrison
Pages:  160
Genre:  Science Fiction / Dystopia
Publisher:  Berkley, 1969
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Twenty-one-year-old, rebellious Chimal wants desperately to escape his native valley - an ancient Aztec civilization sealed off from the outside world.  The cruel gods and priests who rule his valley with despotic laws perpetuate a life of fear and frenzy.

Coatlicue the Dreadful walks the river at night in search of taboo-breakers.  One glance at her twin serpent heads instantly kills the beholder, sending him straight to the underworld.  Citlallatonac, the fearful first priest, performs delicate operations on anyone believed to be possessed by the gods - sacrificial operations, that is.

Chimal escapes - but the world outside, at once futuristic and backward, reverential and hostile, promises a nightmare he never bargained for...

Review:  It's been over 510 years since a madman on Earth genetically changed a group of people into the superstitious, ignorant people who inhabit the valley.  He then stuck them in the fake valley in the middle of a star ship, where generations will live and die until the day that the new planet is reached.

Little do they know, the valley and its gods are all run by yet another group of people, far more technologically capable but still prisoners.  They, too, have been genetically altered to serve as the keepers of the Aztecs and to them their duties are a painful and demanding religion.

But that's not even the worst of it.  The religion of the watchers has become so ingrained that their leaders have purposefully passed by the planet the ship was supposed to stop at, all so that they may continue to serve.  They know no other life and have no other purpose.

This story was short and completely believable.  It was impossible to put down.  Very little of it seemed dated in the least, almost 50 years after it was written.

Rating:  8 / 10

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