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Edenic World Corrupted By Two Men From Earth

Bagavond

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Jun 14, 2019
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I read this book in the early to mid 1980s, although it easily could have been a book from the 1970s.

The plot is basically two astronauts from Earth finding an innocent idyllic world, and one of them who is kind of a con artist sets out to both become the Messiah as well as introduce sin to the inhabitants. All sorts of vices become commonplace, and ultimately this conman is crucified like Christ.

One weird specific memory is that the natives have superior leg strength, and a police officer demonstrates how a victim was killed by having their neck snapped via legs instead of hands.

My impression of the other man (the narrator) is that he's a bit like Nick from The Great Gatsby, involved yet acting as a witness at the same time.
 

otistdog

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This sounds vaguely familiar. Did one of the two astronauts have red hair? Do you happen to recall anything about the illustration on the cover?
 

Bagavond

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The red hair does sound right; I think that might have been the Messiah conman's hair color. Can't remember much about it, although for some reason I have "moon" as a possible word in the title.
 

otistdog

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Did the redhead have an Irish- or Scottish-sounding name? Were he and the narrator part of a survey/exploration team of some sort? If so, I'm pretty sure that I read this long ago, but I'm afraid I don't have much more information than that.

Perhaps some Q&A can shake enough details loose from our memories to allow an identification. Can you remember *anything* else at all about the story? Even the slightest and least-certain memories can make the difference.

FYI -- the way I understood it may have been incorrect, but, as I recall, it wasn't the redhead's plan to be crucified; things got out of hand somehow. Also, I want to say that the redhead may have been a superior officer in the exploration corps that went rogue or else an engineer that somehow sabotaged the pair's ship to disable it, leaving the narrator without much choice but to play along. Do either of those details ring true to you?
 
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dannymcg

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Was this definitely a full length book?
I'm getting an old short story tickle in my subconscious.
Harry Harrison....The streets of Ashkelon

Plot
An atheist merchant/trader, John Garth, is the only human on an alien planet where the native Weskers, intelligent but painstakingly literal-minded amphibians, live in what seem to be utopian conditions. These Weskers have no concepts whatsoever of gods, nor religion, nor sin. Garth has been gradually teaching them the scientific method.

One day Garth is surprised by the arrival of Father Mark, a missionary who is intent on proselytising to the natives. Despite Garth's best efforts to dissuade him, even at gunpoint, the missionary is intent on "saving souls."
Weeks pass and Father Mark has been instructing the Weskers in catechism in their newly-constructed church, and he has recently finished teaching the Weskers about the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.

Soon afterwards, Itin, the ostensible leader of the Weskers, approaches Garth about the problem of reconciling the empirical truth of the scientific method with the symbolic truth of revealed religion and asks him to come to the church to debate Father Mark.
Once at the church, Garth, who had previously made preparations to leave the planet, sees the Bible open to an illustration and orders the missionary to come with him. Not understanding what's wrong, Father Mark refuses; but before Garth can explain, several natives seize the priest and drag him to a hill upon which is planted a cross.

In accordance with what Garth taught them about the scientific method, they are experimentally testing the hypothesis that if they crucify the missionary in accordance with what he taught them about the Gospels, he will miraculously rise from the dead three days later and thereby redeem them.

Three days later, after Father Mark has been buried and the hypothesis disproved, Itin asks Garth what went wrong, and arrives at a simple truth: that the Weskers are now murderers


 
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hitmouse

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Was this definitely a full length book?
I'm getting an old short story tickle in my subconscious.
Harry Harrison....The streets of Ashkelon

Plot
An atheist merchant/trader, John Garth, is the only human on an alien planet where the native Weskers, intelligent but painstakingly literal-minded amphibians, live in what seem to be utopian conditions. These Weskers have no concepts whatsoever of gods, nor religion, nor sin. Garth has been gradually teaching them the scientific method.

One day Garth is surprised by the arrival of Father Mark, a missionary who is intent on proselytising to the natives. Despite Garth's best efforts to dissuade him, even at gunpoint, the missionary is intent on "saving souls."
Weeks pass and Father Mark has been instructing the Weskers in catechism in their newly-constructed church, and he has recently finished teaching the Weskers about the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ.

Soon afterwards, Itin, the ostensible leader of the Weskers, approaches Garth about the problem of reconciling the empirical truth of the scientific method with the symbolic truth of revealed religion and asks him to come to the church to debate Father Mark.
Once at the church, Garth, who had previously made preparations to leave the planet, sees the Bible open to an illustration and orders the missionary to come with him. Not understanding what's wrong, Father Mark refuses; but before Garth can explain, several natives seize the priest and drag him to a hill upon which is planted a cross.

In accordance with what Garth taught them about the scientific method, they are experimentally testing the hypothesis that if they crucify the missionary in accordance with what he taught them about the Gospels, he will miraculously rise from the dead three days later and thereby redeem them.

Three days later, after Father Mark has been buried and the hypothesis disproved, Itin asks Garth what went wrong, and arrives at a simple truth: that the Weskers are now murderers


That was the one I was thinking of too. A classic.
 

otistdog

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Danny, I know that short story, and that's not it. The one that I'm thinking about is definitely a full-length novel, with two main characters as Bagavond describes -- one a redheaded scallywag type trying to pull a con and the other (the narrator) participating but not necessarily approving.

But since this isn't my thread, it's Bagavond's answer that counts!
 

Toby Frost

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It sounds slightly like Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, in which a man is kidnapped and taken to another planet - by a red-haired man, I think - and which has a lot of religious concepts. However, I don't recognise the bit about the long legs and the policeman.

I also remember a book about reptilian aliens who took Christianity very literally, but that might be the short story Danny refers to.
 

HareBrain

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It sounds slightly like Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis, in which a man is kidnapped and taken to another planet - by a red-haired man, I think - and which has a lot of religious concepts.
Some parts of the OP sound more like the sequel, Perelandra, especially the bit about introducing sin to the inhabitants. But I don't think it's either of those. Also some similarity to A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay.
 
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