THE SIXTH DISCIPLINE by Carmen Webster Buxton

sixthA story set in the far future, on another planet far from Earth’s solar system.  This planet, Haven,  has been inhabited now for centuries and centuries by earth people who wanted to escape the horrors that Earth was becoming.  The journey took generations which were ….. oh, what’s the word I want….  mind like a sieve….  well, gotten through by drug induced hibernational sleep,  and via some wonderful devices on the space conveyances, finally found a habitable planet similar to Earth where they settled.

I think the author calls this a fantasy, but maybe it is a fantasy-sci-fi hybrid.   Rather porous line between the two, sometimes, don’t you think?

ENDURED!   That’s the word I was looking for.  That long period of travel was endured by hibernation.

The planet’s inhabitants have now coalesced into three distinct groups, based on their reasons for leaving earth:  the Sansoussy, somewhat primitive (by choice) forest dwellers who live in peace, and who have developed (or brought with them from earth?) well-developed psi abilities.   They have an interesting culture which is reminiscent of Native American values and life-style, complete with Shamans.  I do like a shaman in a story, don’t you?   Introduces the paranormal aspect in a nifty way.

A second group are the merchants, commericales, high tech city dwellers who lived mostly in the three large cities of the planet.  These cities are controlled and run by a number of large ruling families, who have fought each other over the centuries for more power and control.  Due to mergers and whatnot, they are now grouped into  a few large controlling cartels.

The last group is The Horde,  living in the hills, who are just what they sound like.  Nasty folk, raiding and pillaging and all those kinds of medieval steppes traits.

The gist of the story is that the House of Hayden, one of the independent, non-cartel-affiliated houses, due to deaths and a low birth rate, is down to just the head, (the Baron), and his adult daughter.  No other relatives survive, and the Baron dearly wants to keep his House independent.  But where to find a suitable spouse for the very independent, thoroughly-modern Millie of a daughter?   One he can trust not to betray his house?  AHA!   He has it  He will go into the forest where the honorable Sansoussy live and kidnap an unmarried warrior and convince him by hook or by crook to marry the daughter.

Yeah.  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “What kind of a dumb ass plan is that?   And why is it so important to interrupt and possibly destroy some innocent person’s life in order to keep your House independent?  Join a cartel, you arrogant and selfish bast…..”   Yeah.  I was thinking the same thing.    But the Baron is portrayed in such a kindly manner we almost forget that his reasons are just ridiculous.

Let’s recap.  Sci-fi.  Fantasy.  Intrigue.  Oh, yeah.  And romance.  Not too mushy-gushy, but we have the growing attraction between the much-experienced daughter and the virgin warrior.   OH.  Almost forgot the murder and the attempted murder.   How jaded I am becoming.

All in all, a fun read.  If you are looking for hard sci fi, look elsewhere.  If you are looking for a Harlequin romance, look elsewhere.  If you are looking for deep insights into the human condition,  you might find a few here.  It is a look at high tech city living vs primitive-yet-wise-and-sensitive ecosensitive living.  It is about values and morals and what is really important to each of us.  And it is about that ever-present desire to know the future and the wish to have telepathic abilities.

Our Sansoussy warrior knows nothing about things technological, and our somewhat spoiled daughter knows nothing of back-to-the-land living.   Our warrior cannot read, and is finding great difficulty working with a reading device.  And here comes the sermon for ‘real books’.  Sigh.

Clara pulled a dusty object from the back of a drawer and handed it to Ran-Del (the warrior).  He took the thing from her, wondering what it was.  It was heavier than he had expected.  “What is it?”

“It’s a book,” Clara said, “an old fashioned kind of a book made of paper pages.  Over a millennium ago, before there were book readers, this is the only kind of book there was.  It doesn’t require a power supply or anything but enough light to see by and a knowledge of the printed word.”

“How do you work it?”  Ran-Del asked, letting the pages flit through his fingers.

“You don’t work it,”  Clara said.  “There are no buttons or switches.  You simply start at the first page, read it, turn it over, read the back, and keep going until you get to the end of the book.”

Gee.  Good to know that in the millenia to come, we will still be arguing over whether a ‘real book’ or digital readers are the preferred method.  People, apparently, will still be saying, “But I love the smell of a paper book and the weight of it in my hands.”    Some things will never change.

 

 

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