I’ve seen Philip José Farmer‘s name lots of times, when I was browsing the sci-fi shelves of libraries and bookstores, but haven’t read anything from him. That’s strange as he had written over 50 books and I used to devour SF books. Nevertheless “The Green Odyssey” was the first I read from him. I am afraid I may not read another one for a while, as I didn’t really like it.
The story was one of a dozen and the writing was too technocratic for me. Over and over I though I was reading the manual of a machine that happened to be the ecosystem of a planet. I am one of those few people who do read manuals when they get a new machine or equipment, but when I am reading a novel that’s not what I expect. The three things that saved the novel from being and utter bore: the colorful local wife of the traveling hero, the occasional humor and the fact that the story was interesting enough that I wanted to know the end.
The story in a nutshell: a technician gets stranded on a planet where humans live on the technological level where Earth was a thousand or more years ago. At the beginning of the journey he is slave, but most of the novel follows his journey through freedom. He is trying to get to another city, because he learned that two human astronauts from Earth are held captive there. He is hoping they can get him back to his home planet. The voyage is adventurous as he and his fellow travelers encounter cannibals, pirates, dangerous animals, but also find the technical means to free the other earthlings.
It could have been a fun little book if the machinery and living system would have been written by a human and not a machine.