The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

A Gift from Earth is a segment of Larry Niven’s Known Space series, a group of loosely connected novels and short stories, most from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. The series portrays the first centuries of human interstellar exploration and settlement, along with attendant encounters with various alien races.

After landing on a maze of plateaus, on a mountain rising above the poisonous gases of an otherwise uninhabitable planet, the small crew of an Earth colony ship establishes a dictatorship over the colonists, who had been in suspended animation. Living in luxury on the upper Alpha Plateau, the crews descendants make political dissent a capital crime, thus ensuring a large stock of body parts for their organ banks. The “crews” are protected by the Implementation, a police force whose headquarters are conveniently in the labyrinthine, fortress-like Hospital, where prisoners remains are stored and used for transplantation. The colony receives occasional gift packages from Earth via robot space vessels. The latest arrival is hidden quickly by the police but secretly observed by Polly, a member of a revolutionary group called the Sons of Earth.

Matt Keller, the novel’s protagonist, is a twenty-one-year-old colonist with a psychic power of which he is unaware. In moments of intense anxiety, he can cause the pupils of others eyes to contract, thus producing a lack of interest, indeed a pure forgetfulness, in his enemies....

(The entire section is 536 words.)