Book Review: Pioneers by Phillip Mann

Pioneers are genetically enhanced explorers sent out by humanity to find new worlds that can be exploited. Rescue teams of other enhanced humans are sent out to find the Pioneers and the planets they have adapted to. The story follows Angelo and Ariadne, a rescue team, recovering some of the last Pioneers. Angelo looks like a giant ape with a mechanical claw instead of one arm, Ariadne a beautiful woman, although as the story develops Angelo is shown to be the more compassionate and human of the two.

Between setting out for a rescue and returning, decades pass. Between rescues, civilisation on Earth collapses and humanity turns against the teams they have created, mistrusting their enhanced capabilities and entering more of a luddite era. Other rescue teams are killed and even the recovery of the last Pioneer, and the passing of time on Earth, does not settle all of the conflicts. Eventually the surviving rescue teams and Pioneers start to build a community together, and it gives the impression they might make a better job than the normal humans are of rebuilding.

Mann looks at the difference in personalities between Angelo and Ariadne, and also the way humanity treats the creatures they have created to serve them. Angelo actually comes across as the most human person in the story, even though he is the least human in appearence. Although they were engineered for a purpose, Angelo has become interested in writing, and philosophising on the human condition, advancing him past what he was merely created to do.

Title: Pioneers
Author: Phillip Mann
Publisher: Gollancz SF
ISBN: 0575042818
Published Date: 1988
Pages: 320

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Review by Paul Silver, 2004