Powers That Be

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Written as a collaborative effort between Anne McCaffrey, author of THE DRAGONRIDERS OF PERN series, and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, who is best known for her much-admired book THE HEALER’S WAR (1988), POWERS THAT BE is the story of a world in conflict. Shortly after Major Yanaba Maddock arrives on Petaybee, supposedly in order to recuperate from an injury, she realizes that she is in a no-win situation. On one hand, she has been ordered to spy on the natives, who are suspected of rebelling against the all-powerful company which runs the planet; on the other hand, after being befriended by those very people who are the targets of her investigation, she is averse to betraying their confidences. Yanaba is only too aware that without the help of the young snow-transport driver Buneka Rourke and her generous relatives, she would probably not have survived.

However, it is soon evident that the company’s suspicions are not without foundation. The natives’ lives are indeed bound up with a number of animals whose form seems to have been subtly altered, including dogs, cats, and the curly-coated equines bred by Buneka’s uncle, the geneticist Dr. Sean Shongeli. When the survivors of a disastrous expedition return to headquarters with accounts of a strange mystical experience, company officials arrest Yanaba and make plans to subdue the planet and transport its inhabitants. Fortunately, with Yanaba’s help, the nature-lovers persuade the technocrats to change their minds. POWERS THAT BE has all the ingredients of fine science fiction: an interesting setting, convincing characters, and obvious applications to modern life.