The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

On the parallel Earth of these novels, the meteor that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs never struck. From the prehistoric dinosaurs evolved the dominant life-form on the planet, the Yilanè, an advanced reptilian race. Increasingly colder winters drive the Yilanè, who inhabit Africa, to attempt the colonization of North America, where they first encounter the Tanu, human hunters.

The Yilanè, a militaristic, matriarchal species whose males are kept cloistered, establish their first colony, Alpèasak, in Florida. The shrewd, ambitious Vaintè becomes its eistaa, or leader, and seeks to rid the surrounding countryside of the Tanu, who to her are filthy beasts. She spares a Tanu named Kerrick to gain information about humans. Kerrick is taught Yilanè language and customs by Enge, a member of the Daughters of Life, a sect that deplores violence and reveres all forms of life. Kerrick becomes an invaluable assistant to Vaintè in her political intrigues because he can lie; the Yilanè are biologically incapable of lying. After a sexual encounter with Vaintè, Kerrick visits the compound where males are housed and discovers that in Yilanè procreation, fertilized eggs are implanted in the male, who carries the young to term.

One day, Kerrick’s uncle, Herilak, is taken prisoner. He awakens in Kerrick memories of his childhood and a sense of his human identity. Kerrick attacks Vaintè and escapes with Herilak to live among the Tanu,...

(The entire section is 588 words.)