Rork! by Avram Davidson

Penguin, 1969, 140 p.

 Rork! cover

The planet Pia 2 is isolated, so isolated it only has a spaceship visit every five years. Despite this it is home to the redwing, a crop which can be processed to manufacture an important medical treatment. In the time of the culture’s Great Wars Pia 2 was cut off for centuries. The humans there evolved into gruff, hardy creatures speaking in a stripped down patois – still recognisable but not standard. These “autochthonous” humans are known as Tocks and exist in tame (near the Station) varieties and wilder ones. It is the Tocks who harvest the redwing and bring it into the Station. The planet also harbours really native animals like crybabies (known as such for their calls at night) and others which can be dangerous, like the rips and especially, the titular Rorks, giant spider like creatures. Rorkland is a no-go area except perhaps in the Cold Time, when Rorks become sluggish.

Ran Lomar has been sent to the Station to see if there is any way in which redwing production can be increased. The local humans – not to mention the Tocks – are set in their ways and very resistant to change. Having entangled, then disentangled, himself with a local Station woman, Lindel, Lomar sets off to the South of Tockland to try to encourage those there to improve the yield of redwing. He, his Tock companion Old Guns, along with his daughter Norna, are captured by a wild bunch of Tocks and Old Guns is killed.

Aided by Norna, Lomar makes his escape, and the pair are forced to travel into Rorkland to evade recapture. It is obvious by now where this is going and what they are going to find out about Rorks on their travels. Davidson handles it well though and had I read this in the 1960s I would no doubt have thought it excellent. It now reads as a little well-worn, however, and its sexual politics are very much of the 1960s.

Davidson’s use of the words wee, besom and pogue indicates a Scottish connection somewhere but the internet is unforthcoming on what that might be. He can string sentences together though and spin out a plot. I’m not averse to reading more of him.

Pedant’s corner:- In the author information; Wand Moore (Ward Moore.) Otherwise; “Here and they the passed gatherers” (‘there’ for the first ‘they’,) melancholy (melancholy,) Flinders’ (several times, Flinders’s,) “born along” (borne along,) distanthill (distant hill,) “had not know” (known,) “the natural exultance inevitably to the male” (inevitable.) “‘Harb did not even seemed to be waiting” (seem,)”the spaces between the peoples was increased” (were increased,) “grimy impatient” (grimly.) “The mouth seemed trying to say something” (seemed to be trying,) exploitive (exploitative.)

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