‘One citizen of your planet shall go to the capital of the Federation of Worlds. He shall live there for thirty days. If your representative can survive and demonstrate his ability to exist in a civilized society with creatures whose outward appearance and manner of thinking differ from his own, you will pass the test. You will be permitted to send your starships to other planets of the galaxy. ‘If he fails the test, if prejudice, fear, intolerance or stupidity trip him up, then you world will be sealed of from the stars for ever!’ This was the ultimatum from space. The task before the world then was – who shall go? What man or woman could be found to take this frightening test for the whole of humanity and be certain not to fail? (First published 1961)
Millennia ago Starquin visited the Solar System. Because he is huge – some say bigger than the Solar System itself – he could not set foot on Earth personally. yet events here were beginning to interest him, and he wanted to observe more closely. So he sent down extensions of himself, creatures fashioned after Earth’s dominant life-form. In one of Earth’s languages they became known as Dedos, or Fingers of Starquin. Disguised, they mingled with Mankind. We know this now, here at the end of Earth’s time. The information is all held in Earth’s great computer, the Rainbow. The Rainbow will endure as long as Earth exists, watching, listening, recording and thinking. I am an extension of the Rainbow, just as the Dedos are extensions of Starquin. My name is Alan-Blue-Cloud. It is possible you cannot see me but are aware of me only as a voice speaking to you from a desolate hillside, telling you tales from the Song of Earth. I can see you, the motley remains of the human race, however. You sit there with our clubs and you chew your roots, entranced and half-disbelieving as I sing the Song – and in our faces are signs of the work of your great geneticist, Mordecai N. Whirst. Catlike eyes here, broad muzzles there, all the genes of Earth’s life, expertly blended, each having its purpose. Strong people, adapted people, people who survived. The story I will tell is about people who were not so strong. It is perhaps the most famous in the whole Song of Earth, and it tells of three simple human beings involved in a quest who unwittingly became involved in much greater events concerning the almighty Starquin himself. It is a story of heroism and love, and it ends in triumph – and it will remind the humans among you of the greatness that was once yours.
“I’ll need your help. Come night and the Oracle again, I’m going to try the final couplet.” “Jinian,” Murzy breathed while Dodie looked white-eyed at me. “Dangerous.” “And fatal not to,” I said, still smiling at them all… I wove by forest and meadow, branch and leaf. I wove by stream and pool, by river and fall. I wove by cloud and air, by thunder and sunset glow. I wove by depths of the earth, rock and gem, glittering ores and crystals blooming in the dark, old bone and new. Beside me the others wove as well… “And all within sound of my voice or reach of the wind,” I cried, thrusting my voice like a Sending, like a magic spear, driving it upward. “And all within sound of my voice or lick of the wave, or all within sound of my voice or stretch of the soil, or all within sound of my voice where green grows and leaf springs up. Named or unnamed, silent or speaking. Let this message be brought, By the Eye of the Star, Where Old Gods Are!”
On her maiden voyage to Venus, the space liner Cosmic Cloud encounters a mysterious voice speaking through the void. The language is alien-but it is realised that danger threatens. Hardly has a recording been sent to Earth for expert interpretation before a mysterious gong is heard in the space liner, followed by further nerve-shattering notes until, abruptly, the space liner is utterly destroyed. Eventually it is learned that a diabolical mechanism is buried somewhere on Venus, left behind by a long-vanished malign alien race, and at a time appointed it will destroy the whole Solar System. Three men and a girl travel to Venus in a desperate race against time to find and deactivate the doomsday device…
All those who ever lived on Earth have found themselves resurrected – healthy, young, and naked as newborns – on the grassy banks of a mighty river, in a world unknown. Miraculously provided with food, but with no clues to the meaning of their strange new afterlife, billions of people from every period of Earth’s history – and prehistory – must start again. Sir Richard Francis Burton would be the first to glimpse the incredible way-station, a link between worlds. This forbidden sight would spur the renowned 19th-century explorer to uncover the truth. Along with a remarkable group of compatriots, including Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the Victorian girl who was the inspiration for Alice in Wonderland), an English-speaking Neanderthal, a WWII Holocaust survivor, and a wise extraterrestrial, Burton sets sail on the magnificent river. His mission: to confront humankind’s mysterious benefactors, and learn the true purpose – innocent or evil – of the Riverworld . . . Winner of the Hugo Award for best novel, 1972