The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Pennterra was the first science-fiction novel Judith Moffett published after turning from a successful career as a poet and teacher. An engrossing and moving story, it is most notable as a study in the psychological and ecological effects of human interaction with another species.

George Quinlan is a middle-aged widower, the parent of one son, Danny, whom he dearly loves. He is one of the leaders of a colony recently established by Quaker emigrants from Earth on a planet they have named Pennterra. The settlement has gone well, and the Quaker inhabitants have developed friendly relations with the natives, called “hrossa.” The hrossa have been of great assistance to the Quakers. The hrossa derive inherent delight from contact with other life-forms. They emit pheromones that enable individual beings to commune in delight with one another while retaining their mental individuality. The hrossa find the human settlers beautiful and pleasurable, while the Quakers are able to live in amity with their hrossa hosts. George feels a special interest in the hrossa, and his emotional bond with KliUrrh, the primary hross liaison to the Quaker community, is especially close. The hrossa, though, make some requirements of the humans. They stipulate that the Quakers confine their settlement to one small river valley and demand that human technology be limited. These requests are made for reasons of ecological balance.

This balance is upset when a...

(The entire section is 565 words.)