The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

In Deathworld, Kerk Pyrrus hires gambler Jason DinAlt to win a fortune at dice. With his gift of “psi powers,” Jason succeeds. Kerk explains that the money will buy weapons to fight the deadly wildlife on his planet, Pyrrus. The native plants and animals there are armor-plated, poisonous, claw-tipped, fanged, or otherwise prepared for battle. Fascinated, Jason decides to visit Pyrrus, where he finds both danger and a planetwide mystery.

The first clue in this mystery is the horrible nightmares he suffers every night. A second clue comes from an ancient diary, which reveals that the population of the planet is dwindling, not growing. The third clue is the existence of the “grubbers,” whom the city dwellers hate because they live peacefully with the wildlife outside the city walls. Ferocious plants, animals, and insects wage constant war against the city. Jason decides to learn why this dreadful war continues.

Meeting illegally with the grubbers, he finds them to be brave, noble creatures unfairly deprived of civilized amenities by the city dwellers. He determines to stop the war and arrange a peace. The grubbers can communicate telepathically with the native animals. Jason speculates that all the wildlife is empathic, and during an earthquake he is astonished to see the wild animals fleeing the danger zone, alongside the grubbers and domesticated animals. At that point he solves the mystery of the illogical, unending war.

He leads the grubbers against the city. They seize the spaceship—the focus of power on the planet—and demand a meeting with the angry city Pyrrans, at which Jason explains the native planetary telepathy. Although normally they strive against one another, the plants and animals unite to combat any force perceived as a natural disaster. In this case, it is the humans who are a threat, so the plants and animals fight them. The city Pyrrans finally realize that they are responsible for the war...

(The entire section is 801 words.)