The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This second novel by Chad Oliver takes place almost entirely in the mythical Texas town of Jefferson Springs, with a side trip to Austin and several visits to a hovering spaceship. Anthropologist Paul Ellery gradually comes to sense a wrongness about the small town where he has spent two months researching the populace. Not one of its six thousand residents has lived there more than fifteen years. Residents who move elsewhere are replaced with newcomers.

Oliver sets up Ellery’s uneasiness in the first chapter, grounding it in the prosaic reality of the town. By the second chapter, Ellery has observed a nighttime shuttlecraft delivering new arrivals at a ranch on the town’s outskirts. By chapter 4, he has been invited to visit the ship.

His host, a chatty little fat man named John, explains that Earth is one of many planets with human life. Population pressures have forced the more advanced cultures to use primitive worlds such as Earth for colonies, of which Jefferson Springs is one. Luckily, the natives cooperate, gathering in reservations called “cities” and leaving room for the newcomers. Another benefit is that if the natives start a nuclear war, cities would be the targets and the result would be even more room for colonization.

John invites Ellery to spend a few months among the aliens, knowing that the outside world would never believe the truth. Ellery agrees, having some vague idea of finding a weakness among the...

(The entire section is 517 words.)