68k Mentat

At Winter’s End, by Robert Silverberg

Rating: a long, boring science fantasy “epic”


After tens of thousands of years of meteors (known as “Death Stars”) have pummelled the earth into eternal winter, psychically evolved monkeys emerge to reclaim the planet, believing that they are humans. Prior to the Long Winter, the planet was ruled by sauroids, with (actual) humans, insectoids, plantoids, and aquatic sapient citizens as well. They discover and encamp the old world’s capital, only to be found later by another race of people (the Beng) who are more powerful, but don’t actually mean them harm. The monkey tribe maintained a population of 60, training a new member to replace an old one’s job, for tens of millenia in preparation. Their “general”, in spite of not having access to actual, detailed, pre-winter history, somehow knows about kings and xenophobia, and decides that the Beng are their enemies and leaves to create a “kingdom” of eleven people. Towards the end of the novel, a massive hoard of Hjjk (insectoids) come to attack the kingdom, but fortunately the tribe arrives to save them using psychic pheremone control and an otherwise mysterious teleport machine to make them disappear.


Their general behaves like a 20th century warmonger, in spite of having absolutely no reason to have even learned how to be that way because nobody knew that their generation would be the ones to leave their bunker. He had previously been a relatively docile member of the tribe.


Conflict felt very forced, with all of the characters making sudden decisions or changes in opinion without adequate background or reasoning. Certain knowledge was either lost or corrupted with time (people such as Darwin, Marx, Jesus, etc. became gods whose names are Dawinno, Emakkis, Yissou, etc) (they believe they are humans because their scripture doesn’t explicitly point out that they are not). They have psychic powers and a tail that lets them mind meld, which is only partially fleshed out and partly just random plot device.


The cheiftain and the priestess are essentially lesbian lovers (the monkeys have heterosexual mating, but have even stronger psychic bonds that use their magical tails, with a partner that is different from their sexual one), but thank god Silverberg didn’t actually flesh that out. It would have been terrible. Also, the general rapes a woman because he thinks he is king. Where the hell did he get these ideas from? Silverberg really shoehorned him into a bad, macho man when he could have just… not.