Way of the Pilgrim Paperback – Jan 1 1988
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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.
"Dickson is among the best storytellers we have ever had.one of the finest
makers that our field has ever known." --Poul Anderson
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Top Customer Reviews
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?
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Pray, and do not labor much to conquer your passions by your own strength. For 'greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world,' (1 John 4:4), says holy Scripture."
Fr. David Belding
The first printed version came out in Kazan in 1884 and was called "Sincere Tales of a Pilgrim to His Spiritual Father". The introduction of this version tells it to be a reproduction of manuscript which Paisius, abbot of St. Michael of the Cheremissi, found and copied on Mount Athos. Paisius died in 1883.
Bolshakoff writes further that he found the above when he was studying the correspondence of Fr. Jerome Solomentsev. He concludes that the pilgrim perhaps visited Mount Athos and wrote or dictated his story for Fr. Jerome.
However, the above is not the whole history. Bolshakoff found further new information on the pilgrim from two letters of Staretz Ambrose of Optino to a nun who was a prioress of a convent and who had read the manuscript of the Tales before it was printed in Kazan.
Bolshakoff: "In his letter Staretz Ambrose writes: "You write that you came across a manuscript which indicates a simple method to learn the Prayer of Jesus, vocal, mental, and of heart. This manuscript was written by a peasant from the province of Orel who was taught the Prayer of Jesus by an unknown Staretz. You write that the manuscript of this peasant ends in 1859. Shortly before that time we heard from our late staretz, Father Macarius, that he was visited by a layman who had attained to such a high degree of spiritual prayer that Fr. Macarius did not know what to tell him. This layman, in order to receive advice, described to our staretz various states of prayer. Fr Macarius could only tell him: 'Be humble' be humble'. Afterwards he told us about this experience with astonishement. I thought at the time that this concerned the Orel merchant Neumuitov who was a great man of prayer, but I think now that he might well be that peasant of whom you write." (p. 236)