The Lazarus Effect (Pandora Sequence book 2) – Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom

We all make mistakes, sometimes. My error, in this case, was reading the second book in a series before the first. In my defense, my ancient (2012) Kindle didn’t show the series, nor was there a cover or blurb to describe the book. I get a title to go on and hope for the best. That being said, here’s the review!

For going in blind, The Lazarus Effect was very accessible, and it was easy to get into the world presented, one that orbited a pair of binary stars and was covered only in water. The imagery was surreal, and the two human factions–the Islanders and the Mermen–lived in peace. The Islanders lived on giant floating islands made of biological membranes, while the Mermen lived under the ocean in submarines and complexes. Another distinction was that Islanders were usually mutated, with forms both useful or dangerous. Mermen tended to being perfect examples of humanity, and many were disgusted by the appearance of the Islanders.

The book begins with a rogue faction of Mermen destroying one of the floating Islander cities. The book details the story of several Islanders, a pair of fishermen, and Justice of the largest island. Together, they access Merman society and discover the plan of a group of extremists following a Merman named Gallow, who seeks to rid the world of mutants and usurp all.

I very much enjoyed this book. It held a lot of the same themes as Dune–an extreme planet, a charismatic leader and fanatics, and a mysterious life-form that dominates the world (the kelp in this case). But, there was little in the way of political intrigue between the Islanders and the Mermen–most, if not all, were unaware of this Gallow fellow. They coexisted, traded, and while the Mermen could snobbish they weren’t outright hostile. It seemed like an idealized way that humanity could evolve, if two such extremes were to come about. Could it be a theme of beauty and ugliness and their irrelevance? I think it’s deeper than that, as the “ugly” characters all had an ability the Mermen did not. Brett could see in the dark, Twisp’s huge arms could haul nets with ease, and Chief Justice Keel could watch two things at once, and his wisdom was unparalleled.

The humans worshiped the Ship that brought them to Pandora. There was an element of prophesy and sentience among the Kelp, which became more important later on. It was interesting to see that duality unfold, as I find Frank Herbert is a master of unfolding a mysterious world a little at a time. By the end, most of what I was missing from book 1 had been made clear. I have books 1 and 3 on my bookshelf, and I very much look forward to reading them. While it was published in 1983, it holds up well and is relevant in today’s world.

By Thea

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