A former soldier exiled to a prison planet takes on a corrupt planetary government in Johnson’s debut novel.
In the year 2442, the ECG—which plans to create a socialist utopia before allowing colonization of other planets—governs Earth. The ECG has, for 300 years, banished to a distant planet criminals and progressives who spoke against the government. Alex Khan, who worked for the ECG and destroyed illegal interplanetary colonies to insure the survival of his technologically progressive family, is exiled to the prison planet after killing the man who murdered his father. Knowing that survival must come before revenge, Khan uses his wits to withstand the primitive conditions he encounters, until he makes contact with the other residents of the planet, which some call Earth 2.0. Though the novel begins like a Jack London tale of man battling nature, it quickly travels into social commentary, emphasizing the inherent benefits of capitalism through Khan’s encounters with feudal lords, a democratic socialist town with stagnating technological development and ultimately Earth’s oppressive socialist regime. Johnson successfully creates a complex secondary world peopled with interesting characters. Johnson is less successful with some of his cultural creations. His “Maneaters”—a group of hunter-gatherers who eat their enemies to gain strength and who live in teepees—sometimes come across as Native American stereotypes; Muslim stereotypes also occur. Still, the plot holds together, and Earth 2.0 intrigues enough that readers may forgive awkward moments in order to go on Khan’s adventures. Since those exploits run the technological gamut—fighting a lionlike creature bare-handed, exploring a new world with dirigibles, stealing a space ship to liberate Earth—sci-fi fans will likely find something that pleases.
An intriguing novel that doubles as a love song to capitalism.