147. Novella 2, Hunter, Come Home

I was in high school when I read Hunter, Come Home for the first time and found it deeply moving. Richard McKenna was a force in the science fiction world, but only for a sadly short time. I had to search the internet and my local interlibrary loan to find a copy to re-read. I found it in Casey Agonistes and Other Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories by Richard McKenna, Harper & Row, 1973.

McKenna is famous outside the science fiction community for his one best seller The Sand Pebbles. He was born in Montana in 1913, joined the Navy in 1931 at the height of the depression and served in WWII and Korea. After retirement, he used the GI Bill to finished the education that had been cut short decades before. He became a writer, but of only a few stories and one novel. He had only six years between his first publication and his death.

If you get the book, you will certainly read the other stories and be glad you did, but my focus is Hunter, Come Home.

Here is a brief, spoiler-free summary. Mordinmen were descendants of a lost Earth colony which had fought a generations long war against the dinosaur like creatures which inhabited their planet. Manhood had become symbolized by the killing of a dino, but now the dinos were scarce and poor families, like Roy Craig’s, could no longer afford a hunt.

Mordinmen had now claimed another planet and were setting about to destroy its native ecosystem, in order to rebuild it in the image of their home planet. Red dots (successful hunters) were running the show, assisted by blankies like Roy who was working toward the time he could make his kill on the new planet. Hired as specialists, the Belconti biologists were providing the virus-like Thanasis used to destroy the native life.

When the story begins, the fight to transform this new planet has been going on for decades, and it is failing. Now the Mordinmen, against warnings by the Belacaonti, are about to unleash newer, harsher, more dangerous plague on the planet.

That’s about as far as I can summarize without a spoiler alert. Roy Craig wants more than anything to be a full fledged member of his machismo society, but his blanky status leaves him marginalized and frustrated. At the same time, he is drawn to the relatively gentle society of the Belaconti with whom is is working, symbolized for him by the woman Midori Blake.

The native life of the planet is totally interconnected, essentially a one-world-tree (shades of Gaia). It does not so much fight back against the invaders as simply refuse to die

There is a three way contrast in Hunter, Come Home. The Mordinmen, from a macho society built on killing are placed in contrast to the Belaconti, scientists who understand and treasure the ecosystem they are trying to destroy, and they in turn are contrasted to the interlocked, almost self-aware native life of the planet. Roy and Midori are each caught in conflicting loyalties as the planned apocalypse moves forward.

Hunter, Come Home is beautifully written, full of human passions, and insights into cultures in conflict. On publication, it was far ahead of its time in its appreciation of the importance of ecology.


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