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Alien Art
By Gordon R. Dickson

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Alien Art
By Gordon R. Dickson
G.K. Hall & Co., Large Print, (2002)
ISBN: 0-7838-9764-2
Genre: Science Fiction

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - February 18, 2003

Alien Art, by Gordon R. Dickson is a superb science fiction story. On a deeper level, however, is also an excellent story about the dangers of environmental degradation and unchecked industrial growth. The story takes place on Arcadia, one of Earth's many colonies. In order to settle the planet the colonist took out a mortgage on their world, and used these funds to arrange transport to the colony world, and to set up the basic necessities of life. Arcadia was good to them. As the book opens, they have paid off their first mortgage and are about to vote on whether or not to take out another New World Mortgage. With the second Mortgage, the Acadians would have the means to industrialize the planet overnight, turning the planet's natural resources into untold wealth for everyone. A positive vote for the second mortgage was a forgone conclusion. It was the natural way of things on a colony world - they all followed the same route from rough settlements to industrial powerhouses that rivaled the home world.

There was one person on Arcadia, however, who did not want to see the planet plundered. This holdout was Cary Longan, a twenty-one-year-old backwoodsman who once hunted the planet's native otters for their furs. That is, he did, until he discovered that they were intelligent and that they could communicate with him. Instinctively, Longan knew that he had to save the otters, and the only means that he had at his disposal was a small rock carving made by the otter Charlie.

Longan tried to sell the carving to the art dealer, Lige Bros Waten. The carving is small and crude and Waten sees no value in it. The only interest that he shows in the otter's carvings comes when he learns about the full sized statue carving that Charlie did of Longan. Full of hope that Waten would buy the statue, and in that once word got out that the otter's were artists, that the vote on the New World mortgage would fail, Longan embarks upon a wild enterprise to bring the statue to the city.

Crafty as he is, Longan cannot transport the large statue himself so he enlists the help of a Mattie Orvalo, and eighteen-year-old outfitter. Mattie is an astute business woman. It is only after Longan convinces her that he already has a firm contract for the sale of the statue that she backs his venture, and agrees to help him.

They have only a few days to move the statue from its location in the otter swamps, back to the city. In the best of circumstances, this would have been a daunting task. It is made even more so when they discover that they are being hunted by offworlders who will do anything in their power to ensure that the Arcadian's take out a new mortgage. Once this happens, not only will the Arcadians and the mortgage company make a financial killing, but so too would numerous offworld developers. To compound the dangers, the swamp that they must haul the huge statue through is full of many dangers of its own, and even with Charlie's help and Longan's backwoods skills, danger lurks around every clump of grass.

From just reading the jacket cover, this might seem like an odd little book, with an even odder premise. However, don't let this fool you. Alien Art is a first-rate story, and while the premise may be a bit unusual, Dickson weaves it into a compelling and believable story that will enthrall you from beginning to end.

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