Dworn knew that if his machine failed him in battle he would die. For men fought each other viciously, with no bond of brotherhood, in thisóWorld Of The Drone
Then, a couple of miles ahead, he glimpsed lights. His heart bounded up--then sank with a prescient dismay; there was something wrong--
The fires that winked up there--four, no, five of them, under the very rim just before the cliffs rose sheer--didn't look like campfires. They were unequally spaced, and they flared up and waned oddly by turns, glowing evilly red.
Dworn braked the beetle to a stop on a patch of high ground, and sat straining to discern the meaning of those ominous beacons. To his imagination, rasped raw by expectation and the tension of long travel, they became red eyes of menace, warnings.... He tried the infrared viewer, but it showed no more than he could see with the naked eye. Only ghosts paraded across the screen, ghosts of the folded slopes that rose to the abrupt wall of the Barrier. Nothing seemed moving there; the whole sweep of broken and tumbled landscape appeared dead and lifeless as the moon.
But yonder burned the fires.
Sternly Dworn re
Although the basic plot is nothing startling, the world this story constructs is well worth checking out. In a post-Apocalyptic wasteland, thousands of years after a nuclear war, humankind survives as scattered nomadic clans constantly at war with each other. What makes this story somewhat unique is the nomads' way of life: each clan builds its own specialized armed and armored vehicles patterned on some form of insect or arachnid, creating a sort of bizarre mechanized Road Warrior-ish bug pseudo-ecology with hints of the Plains Indians thrown into the mix. Existence is a dire, never-ending struggle between the clans for scarce resources, especially fuel and water. But will the clans recognize a new threat to them all in time to unite against it? Okay, this is 1950s-style pulp sf, so I think we all know the answer to that one, but it\'s still worth a read.
In a post-atomic desert Earth, tribes are organized around the type of vehicle they prefer: beetles, scorpions, caterpillars, spiders, etc. Each tribe fights the others for survival. Dworn is returning to his tribe after his wanderyear, only to discover an evil new type of machine has moved over the mountains into the desert.
A pretty good pulp story, with some good characterizations, including some strong women.
Just read this as a pulp adventure. The denizens of this desert like world clanking around in their various machines which define their "clans" have a pretty hard life, fighting and killing each other regularly over resources. Then it gets worse! They must face a nasty robotic threat to them all.
The author builds on a bizarre example of planetary evolution and, due to the shortness of the novella, escapes unhurt from deeper questions coming up in the scientifically minded reader. Very speculative, but a whole story.