Pros: Exciting, fast paced, very good and intelligent story telling
Cons: Some implausible story content
When my nine year old daughter saw me reading this book and she saw that on the front cover there was a picture of a man fighting a giant spider, she exclaimed: Dad! How immature of you! Why are you reading a book about people fighting giant spiders? I told her not to judge a book by its cover. This book is to a large extent about a group of humans trying to survive in a bizarre world with giant insects, spiders and giant mushrooms but no higher level animals. However, that does not mean that the book is juvenile or implausible.
Background to the story
Humankind was spreading throughout the galaxy; turning suitable but barren planets into planets fit for life and human population. A so called seed ship, Orana, lands on an unnamed planet and plant spores, microorganisms, plankton, and fungi. Subsequent seed ships plant fish, plant life, insects and other arthropods. However, due to a clerical error the planet is "forgotten" and the process is never finished. As a result the planet becomes a planet with giant mushrooms, giant insects, millipedes, and spiders, but with no mammals, birds, or reptiles. The creatures on the planet also grow far beyond their normal size over the centuries. There are million member swarms of army ants 2-3 feet long that travels the landscape and consumes everything in their path. There are poisonous spiders that are a few yards long, and enormous spider webs that can ensnare a human. The planet becomes a planet of a million nightmares.
The space ship Icarus crash lands on this planet and the crew is lost and forgotten. Through the generations the knowledge of civilization is forgotten and the descendents of the ship wrecked turn into savages. The story is about Burl and his tribe and how they begin to rediscover human knowledge in this extremely dangerous and brutal world where humans are nothing but vermin and insect feed.
Opinion about the book:
There are a few implausible elements in the story, for example, creatures with exoskeletons (spiders, insects, etc.) cannot grow to the sizes described in the book. Another item that seems implausible is that it is possible to forget an entire planet because of one man's clerical error. However, the description of the insects and the spiders and how they behave and look like is based on the author's expertise in Entomology. These descriptions are convincing, insightful and also interesting. The clear descriptions of the arthropod world and how it would look like enlarged was fascinating. His description of how people would live and survive in such a world was also gripping and believable. The author is clearly very knowledgeable and he has a great skill in realistically portraying a micro world as a macro world. Therefore I found it easy to forgive a few implausible items.
The story telling is fast paced and there is stomach churning action on basically every page. It is the type of book that is hard to put down. Even though the premise may seem childish at first the book is far from a simple minded action read. The book was also about rediscovering civilization and how this could happen. The author's descriptions of the circumstances, the events, and the feelings and thoughts of the protagonist, Burl, were believable and engaging. Rediscovering civilization is not an easy feat. There are habits, feelings, and thought patterns that have to be overcome in addition to discovery and invention. This can only happen under special circumstances with the help of people with suitable personalities.
The book may seem like a childish book at first. However, it was a nice surprise that I enjoyed reading very much. "The forgotten Planet" is a great Science book that is no longer widely read. In a sense it is a "forgotten master piece of Science Fiction". I have a feeling this book would make a very good movie. I hope a movie producer will consider it one day.
Finally I would like to thank Patsy (pestyside) for adding this item to the data base