Picks and Pans Review: The New Springtime

updated 05/28/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/28/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Robert Silverberg

This sequel to Silverberg's critically praised sci-fi novel, At Winter's End, is an ambivalent accomplishment.

It has been a number of decades since the People, a furry hominid race, have emerged from the long hibernation that preserved them from the deadly rain of "death-stars" that wiped out the Earth's dominant species, sapient reptiles that were called sapphire-eyes. Now in a number of city-states, the People have established nascent civilizations. The development of monetary currency and mechanization are rapidly upgrading their status from tribal to societal. The biggest threat they face is from the hjjk, a variety of giant insect that thrived during the long freeze.

The hjjk are bound together by obtuse philosophical concepts, expressed in Beowulfian constructs like "Queen-peace" and "Nest-plenty." Their Queen has just tendered the People a binding peace treaty, but the offer only stirs up mistrust and belligerence among the primates.

Silverberg presents an exotic and convincing bestiary in this novel, which stands as an allegory for man's reflexive hatred of that which he does not understand and of his arrogant confidence in his evolutionary hegemony.

There's a curious, striated quality to the text because while Silverberg writes both descriptive and dialogue passages well, he rarely mixes the two. The principal drawback, however, is that the story moves along so sluggishly. Silverberg uses enough of his imaginative craft to keep you flipping pages—but not enthusiastically. (Warner, $19.95)

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