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Biggle: The Light That Never Was—Illuminating Unintended Consequences

Lloyd Biggle, Jr.‘s The Light That Never Was is a complex story simply told. The artists of planet Donov are all human with one exception (a swamp slug), and they’re all hacks nowadays (except the aforementioned slug). Although the classic views are still there, and the incredible light of Donov that once inspired master artists, the scenes are appreciated now only by tourists, and those who paint souvenirs to sell to them.

But there’s a change sweeping the human-settled universe. On world after world, people who had lived in harmony with animaloid sentients suddenly rise up in riots and massacre their non-humanoid neighbors. This wave of change sweeps over Donov without effect, for Donov has no sentient animaloids—that is, until Jaward Jorno comes home.

Jorno is an incredibly wealthy local who arrives on Donov ready to put his family’s large estate to use as a refugee camp for the brilliant mesz, natives of Mestil. And while refugees are not allowed on this world, Jorno learns of a loophole in Donov law that says artists may stay for as long as they like. So 3,000 alien animaloid refugees become artists.

Now that there are animaloids on Donov, will the wave of riots touch this planet as well? Fighting this trend is the World Manager Ian Korak and his lovely grand-daughter Eritha, Korak’s First Secretary Neal Wargen (who is secretly the head of the Secret Police, and not so secretly in love with Eritha Korak), and Arnen Brand, who provides a home for the slug and sells its artwork to finance a little refugee work of his own.

Biggle uses the concepts of art well in his work. This novel explores the urge to create, the pain of knowing one’s work to be second-rate, the difference between creating art and “putting paint on canvas”, and the role of the art critic. The artistic topics are background, however, to the detail of this particular painting. One of the characters is a tragically flawed personality, acting in ways that have doomed dozens of worlds. Minor accents illustrate the spiteful sterility of bigotry and the liberating effects of tolerance. But the major theme of this artwork is even more sweeping: Is it enough to do Good Works? Or must one actually accomplish good?

There are books that are worth rereading, whose stories remain fresh. Like a great painting, they reward the viewer each time they are approached. Biggle’s novel is a Goya, at least. Perhaps even a Hieronymus Bosch.

Notable quote: “Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny.”—Lloyd Biggle, Jr., in Analog, April 1961.

About DrPat

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    I admit my reason for rereading this particular novel at this time was encountering the Biggle quote that closes my review – unattributed, on another site. The quote is, however, unrelated to this book.

  • http://www.becauseofromek.com Jeff Muchnik

    http://www.BECAUSEofROMEK.com

    Synopsis

    BOOK TELLS OF NAZI ATROCITIES THROUGH A CHILD’S EYES

    A young boy, 13 years of age, witnessed his family being tortured and murdered by Gestapo soldiers during a dark time in history: Poland during WWII. At that time, David Faber did not know that he would not only survive countless horrors over the next five years, but would grow up to write a book about his experiences during the war. That was the promise he made to his dead mother: to survive
    and tell the world what happened. Faber survived eight concentration camps, and was liberated by the British in April, 1945, from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. By this time, he was 18 years old and weighed a mere 72 pounds. After the war, Faber moved to London, England, and eventually settled in the United States. Today, Faber lectures throughout the United States about his experiences during the Holocaust. During his lectures, he relates the Holocaust to events of recent years, emphasizing the dangers of hatred, as well as the need for mutual understanding and compassion. Over the past 15 years, hundreds of book stores have hosted book signing events with David Faber, who has also spoken at many schools and colleges, as well as civil and religious organizations.
    Because of Romek conveys Faber’s story of courage and survival through Nazi atrocities. The book is also a useful, educational tool for history, humanities, social studies, and English courses in middle schools, high schools, and colleges; Because of Romek is a required text in many educational institutions throughout the United States. Faber’s goal is for the public to be aware of the horrors of the Holocaust, so as to prevent such horrors from ever occurring again.

    Needs

    Vincent Press, in San Diego, is looking for an Individual or Company to help us market “Because of Romek”- A Holocaust Survivor’s Memoir written by David Faber in order to increase the yearly sales from 10,000 to 100,000 or more per year. People of all ages need to be educated so that this and other tragedies will be ended forever.
    We are also looking to create a curriculum for all students.
    “Because of Romek” has sold approximately 150,000 Books over the past 15 years.
    Please email me at jeffmuchnik@yahoo.com for more information or any questions. Thank you

    Jeff Muchnik-Assistant to Publisher

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Absolutely nothing to do with the book I reviewed, Mr. Muchnik. Why don’t you contact the editors of the site?

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Great Biggle quote, DrPat, no matter where it came from.

    Nice review, too.

  • http://paperfrigate.blogspot.com DrPat

    Thanks, Eric B! Biggle actually has a catalog of quotes to contend with Lazarus Long’s for depth and gamut of philosophy.

    • Holding truths to be self-evident can be risky business.
    • State lotteries are in fact ripoffs in the form of voluntary taxation–one can get better gambling odds at Vegas.
    • Down through the centuries, few human activities have been more universally condemned than gambling, for sound reasons. Now governments are following the lead of churces not merely in condoning gambling but also in encouraging it–as long as they can turn a profit on it. And if a government promotes gambling for its own profit, what won’t it do for profit?

    And of course, the ubiquitous “life” quote, found everywhere on the Web:

    • Life is life’s greatest gift. Guard the life of another creature as you would your own because it is your own. On life’s scale of values, the smallest is no less precious to the creature who owns it than the largest…