2 out of 4 stars
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Escape from Earth: The Journal of a Planetary Pioneer is a science fiction novel by Duane L. Herrmann. Due to future "climate disasters" here on Earth, Haleem Elger, his wife Helki and children Nestor (9), Leta (7) and Berget (5) travel to the planet of Makana using a matter transporter that bends space and time. The Elger family are of the Bahá'í faith. Their youngest son, Timmon, is missing at the end of their journey. He might still be home on Earth, being taken to stay with friends of the Elgers. Or he might be dead. Haleem tries to play down his fears in his journal and to his children, but secretly he is worried. Some of the items that came through "transit" are not complete, such as chairs with missing legs and books with missing pages. Makana has three moons, christened Alpha, Beta, and Gamma by the colonists, and an environment similar to Earth: oceans, hills, and breathable air. Haleem's journal details many aspects of forming a society on Makana during their first year on the new planet.
I liked the journal format of the narrative, as I got to follow along with Haleem as he mused about the nature of his new environment, how the seasons on Makana worked, and other things. Haleem fed in plot information as he became aware of it, which I thought was a good approach. Those forming the new colonies displayed an impressive sense of humanity, with no money being used, but a true sense of community with everyone working together for the welfare of all. There were a lot of Bahá'í prayers and verses, plus some from other faiths, so this book had many religious elements, focussed mainly on peace and acceptance.
Also, Haleem was against imposing standards of the Bahá'í faith on anyone else on Makana. He said, "these draconian measures are what have given religions in the past a bad name", preferring people arrived at a point in their lives where they accepted these standards on their own. I found this enlightened view refreshing against many current religious groups who aim to "recruit" followers into their faith using various sales techniques. There was a real sense of peace and harmony among the colonists who embraced the Bahá'í faith, which fostered a spirit of cooperation on the new world.
Escape from Earth had many errors, including occasional incorrect words (such as "where" instead of "were") and unnecessary commas (such as: "The joint memorial service, was well received.") I found ten errors in the first twenty pages. Unfortunately, I also found this book a little dull and uninteresting. For example: "The other arm of the Bahá'í administrative order consists of individuals who function in an educational, supportive, and encouraging role, as individuals, not as corporate bodies," and: "Guidance and assistance flow from both sides of this administrative system." Haleem seemed fascinated by the administrative aspects of the new colony, but less so in action-oriented story elements. The book was about solving problems in day-to-day life on a new world, but for me, it came at the cost of an engaging plot. There were a few notable events but they didn't really lead anywhere, and there was no traditional story arc leading to a climactic conclusion.
Overall, I rate Escape from Earth 2 out of 4 stars. If properly edited, I would give it 3 stars. Despite its positive message of faith, which I applaud, I found it more a procedural guide for seeding a new world than an entertaining page-turner. If that was the author's intention, he has succeeded, but it seemed very dry to me and I felt the story lacked any real engagement or excitement. I would recommend this book mainly to anthropology, history or religion enthusiasts, anyone interested in the logistics of settling human life on a strange new world. If you like thrills and chills, however, you won't find them here.
Escape from Earth
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