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Way of the Pilgrim [Paperback]

Gordon R. Dickson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 1 1988
Shane, a gifted linguist, has spent his life learning the language of the old and powerful alien race that has conquered Earth. He has learned it so well that the interstellar masters, old hands at enslaving planets, regard him as a valuable servant.

But Shane has a secret. One day, in a rebellious moment, he invented The Pilgrim: a mysterious figure who incites rebellion and vanishes unseen, leaving a distinctive icon behind him.

Now the human underground is preparing to rebel. Shane knows how hopeless their rebellion will be. He knows, as well, that he will be unable to keep himself from taking part.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The oppressive imperialists and rebellious colonists familiar from Dickson's previous work return in this novel of the Earth's conquest by aliens. The nine-foot-tall Aalaag, members of a warrior society, use their advanced technology to treat humans like cattle. As one of the few people who can speak the alien language, linguist Shane Evert comes to know and understand the Aalaag even as he hates them. His gesture of protesta graffito of a pilgrimis picked up by the scattered, disorganized Resistance, and before long Shane finds himself leading a worldwide movement for freedom. Although the usual Dickson weaknesses of simplistic characters and verbose storytelling handicap the novel, his balancing strengthsthe use of historical parallels (here, Nazi and Soviet occupations) and righteous moral fervormake this one of his better recent books.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A true master of science fiction." --Joe Haldeman

"Dickson is among the best storytellers we have ever had.one of the finest
makers that our field has ever known." --Poul Anderson
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars I was disappointed! Jan. 9 2004
By Sailoil
Previously I read "Wolf in Iron" by Gordon Dickson, and it is one of the best post-holocaust novels I have ever read. A truly wonderful book, and brilliantly written. I was expecting the same qualities in this book.
But here is something altoghether different. Perhaps it is because Dickson is trying to tell the story from the viewpoint of the protagonist, Shane Everett. Little Shane Beast is a translator working for the nine foot tall alien occupiers of earth. Cold dispassionate and unemotional beings, Shane must behave like them to survive. And not only does he survive, but he excells. Is this why the whole story is told in such a cold, logical and dispassionate prose?
The plot is simple and bare, as clean as the cities in the Aalaag occupied world. There are no plot turns, no multiple plots, no side character, no maturing of the hero. Nothing. The tale is simple to the point of starkness. Something that I found to be unsatisfying in the extreme.
The premise of language as a route to understanding has been done far better in "Fine Prey" by Scott Westerfield. There are many more interesting and uplifting novels about alien invasion of earth.
What this book does deliver on is the horror of earth being occupied by a race who are so far above us that we cannot reach an understanding of their technology. A race that does demote us to the status of beasts. As top dog on our planet we have a dreadful superiority complex. We imagine that eventually we would get the better of any alien species we encounter. But what if we couldn't. Dickson's Aalaag are so superior to us that a single fully armored warrior would not be in danger should the whole planet rise against him. Humans become as powerless as a hive of bees to him. As long as we produce output we achive the status of being useful. Otherwise we are little more than pests. Perhaps it is this very vision that makes this book so unsettling?
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This is one of the best science fiction novels written since the 1950s. The premise is brutally simple, and utterly plausible. The time is the near future. Earth has been conquered by an alien race that immediately relegates human beings to the status of owned "cattle." At first all hope is lost. Humans have no rights, no aspirations, and the superiority of the alien "Aalaag" invaders is overwhelming.
Eventually a human underground takes root. But it happens in a way that will surprise the reader because it completely avoids the ordinary banality of the usual "underground resistance" type of novel. The ending will startle and surprise.
Dickson's prose is excellent, at times he is poetic and moving. This novel probably features some of Dickson's best writing.
I suppose the thing I liked best about this novel is that it imparts to the reader a sense of both plausibility and wonder to which all good SF aspires, but that only the best attains. This book reads like something that could happen. There is nothing about this story that involves the need for any suspension of the reader's critical facilities. The aliens in this novel seem real. They don't do anything to humans that humans don't do to other, apparently inferior (by human standards) species. It makes you think.
This novel is a "must read" for anyone who enjoys good science fiction, or would like to.
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5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book-i loved it July 12 1999
By A Customer
this was a outstanding book ,i was so into it,i really cared about the characters and i never was sure how it was going to end.this is one of my favorite books ever.Im going to keep this one a long time
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth finding a copy of this book Feb. 22 1998
By shoptaug@mhdli.moorhead.msus.edu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Mass Market Paperback
Better known for his "Dorsai" books, Dickson wrote this single-volume story of a first contact between humans and aliens in the late 1980s. It's an excellent, thought-provoking book. Earth has been conquered by a humnoid people known as the Aalaag, whose technology is so superior to that of 20th century humans that no human can even begin to understand how it works. Even more, the Aalaags refer to humans as "cattle" and think of them as little better than we usually think of our domesticated animals. The Aalaag language is utterly incomprehensible to most humans, so only a tiny number of linguistic specialists can speak a rude approximation of it. The story is an account of how one human, the best at speaking and understanding Aalaag, devises a way to (maybe) get the Aalaag to free humanity and leave Earth. The book has weaknesses -- most of the human characters are undeveloped, although the main character is finely drawn. And this is not a "rock-em, sock-em" action book by any means -- long dialogues dominate the narrative. But the heart of the book is carried on Dickson's skill at conveying the surface-similarities of Aalaag and humans, then in using the dialogue and action to convey just how different the two species are in reality. The climax of the book gives one a lot to think about. For those who get tired of the "Star-Trek" approach to first contact -- where clever humans figure out the key to alien behavior within a few hours -- this book is a wonderful counterpoint. It suggests just how hard it could be to understand another species. If that sounds like your cup of tea, it's well worth the effort to look for a used copy of this book.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A "victory" over oppression Dec 15 2004
By Charles Ashbacher - Published on Amazon.com
This is one of the best science fiction stories ever written. Several years before the tale begins, an alien race called the Aalaag arrived on the Earth and easily take control. Their technology was so far advanced over humans that all military resistance was futile, the most advanced human technology could not even reach the level of scratching their paint. The Aalaag are also a species with a strict code of honor, and their goal is to harness the resources of Earth to build the Aalaag strength so that they can eventually reclaim their worlds. Many centuries before, an even stronger species had taken over the Aalaag home systems, forcing them to flee out across space, looking for new places to live.

While the presence of the Aalaag has brought an end to war between humans and created a very ordered society, the Aalaag mentality is such that the humans are considered to be the equivalent of cattle. The main character, a linguist named Shane Evert, is one of the few humans capable of speaking and understanding the Aalaag language. He is a translator for the Aalaag governor of Earth, in some ways one of the highest ranking humans on Earth.

As the story begins, he witnesses an Earthman being killed by the Aalaag for an act they consider rebellion. An Aalaag youth unintentionally injured the man's wife so he attacked the Aalaag with his bare hands. According to Aalaag law, the man must immediately be put to death by being impaled on spikes and all humans in the area forced to watch until the man is clearly dead. Evert is repulsed and draws an image of a cloaked man with a staff under the dead man. With this act, he takes the first step in becoming the pilgrim, the worldwide symbol of human resistance to the occupation.

However, he knows that any overt resistance against the Aalaag is futile, so he must find a way to fight back without overtly challenging the Aalaag. As his plan develops, he creates a worldwide network of resistors, which grows to include the covert security services of the major nations. They all cooperate to prepare for the day when humans finally challenge the power of the Aalaag.

Shane uses his knowledge of the Aalaag to convince the governor that they will achieve no real value if they continue their hold over Earth. He is genuinely surprised when the Aalaag governor agrees and they abandon Earth without destroying any structures or killing any humans.

What makes this story so powerful is the interaction between the alien race and the humans. Even though the Aalaag governor and Shane talk at length about their differences and their similarities, and do find some common ground, in the end the governor still considers the humans to be ungovernable cattle. Dickson is superb in creating an ending that gives you pause. Instead of a joyous triumph at the human "victory" over such a powerful foe, it is very bittersweet. Human national rivalries resurface even before the Aalaag are gone and you think deeply when Evert is told that the reason the Aalaag are leaving is because they consider the human species to be unworthy. Despite their actions of enslaving the human race, the Aalaag are very honorable beings, and they have many admirable qualities.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Moses Story Revisited? Feb. 21 2007
By Meryt Maat - Published on Amazon.com
The hero myth didn't begin with the Moses story of the Israelites' slavery and liberation from Egypt, and it won't end with Way of the Pilgrim. Humans have been telling this story since the beginning of time, and let's face it, we love the tale. If you want to read a riveting story about enslaved humans and a flawed hero who finds that his true mission in life is to free his people, bad guys who get their come-uppance from one they have "adopted" and trained, all woven into a science-fiction tale complete with 9ft tall aliens, this is your book. Be patient -- you will have to weave your way through a lot of words, but I think it will be worth your while.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychology over Technology Nov. 12 2006
By Neal J. Pollock - Published on Amazon.com
Dickson writes very well indeed, though I didn't pick up any quotes from this book. Its plot is very simple and the ending less than inspiring IMHO. But, there are VERY significant psychological factors (besides the obvious linguistic ones) for both aliens (Aalag) and humans. The protagonist, Shane, starts out as very distant, pessimistic, & self-centered. But, Dickson addresses the Pilgrim within (unconscious) which disallows Shane's passivity & instigates transformations within Shane, in Shane's relationships with others (e.g. Maria, Peter, & the Aalag), & in human--Aalag relations. The key to removing the Aalag from Earth is psychological not technological. Indeed, the Aalag are psychologically wounded; unable to accept losing their homeworlds to the Bee creatures, they stagnated culturally. Yet, they continued to display overweening narcissism (esp. regarding their "cattle")! "My mind is made up, don't bother me with facts." Rather than a foil for humanity, they are a left handed insult to humanity. But the ending is a more direct criticism as people revert to selfishness, pettiness, & disorder--seeming to have learned little from the Aalag either as good or as bad examples of behavior. The ultimate foolishness, however, is the Aalag commander's explanation of their intentions & total misunderstanding of the nature of humans & the nature of freedom--highly reminiscent of human "benevolent" dictators. This book is a sad commentary on humanity (consciousness) in parallel with its inspiring view of the human (unconscious) spirit.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fantastic book-i loved it July 12 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
this was a outstanding book ,i was so into it,i really cared about the characters and i never was sure how it was going to end.this is one of my favorite books ever.Im going to keep this one a long time
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