(16 Reviews)
Deathworld by Harry Harrison







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(16 Reviews)
Some planet in the galaxy must--by definition--be the toughest, meanest, nastiest of all. If Pyrrus wasn't it ... it was an awfully good approximation!

Book Excerpt

They came up a natural seven and Jason smiled.

When he scooped them up the smile slowly faded. The dice were transparent, finely made, evenly weighted on all sides--and crooked.

The pigment on the dots of five sides of each die was some heavy metal compound, probably lead. The sixth side was a ferrous compound. They would roll true unless they hit a magnetic field--that meant the entire surface of the table could be magnetized. He could never have spotted the difference if he hadn't looked at the dice with his mind. But what could he do about it?

Shaking them slowly he glanced quickly around the table. There was what he needed. An ashtray with a magnet in its base to hold it to the metal edge of the table. Jason stopped shaking the dice and looked at them quizzically, then reached over and grabbed the ashtray. He dropped the base against his hand.

As he lifted the ashtray there was a concerted gasp from all sides. The dice were sticking there, upside down, box cars showin

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Pyrrus; a nasty planet named for the type of victory that king Pyrrus of Epirus enjoyed when he defeated powerful Rome, but lost all his forces and kingdom doing so.

That's what the settlers of Pyrrus are facing. They are dealing with not only a tidal and volcanically dangerous planet, but an incredibly hostile array of native life which is continuously evolving ever deadlier forms. Despite training to kill from infancy, and constant ferocious battling, they are not making headway. The more they kill, the more of them are killed. They enlist a somewhat shady gambler who uses his telekenitic powers to win at dice. He contracts to cheat and win them a pile of sheckels to buy the equipment of conflict they need.

He wins the money, but, being a curious adventurer type, insists he wants to go back with them to Pyrrus despite the dangers.

He undergoes extensive training just to stay alive. Then he has revelations about just what is making the planet's indigenous lifeforms so hateful and aggressive to humans. Follows his leads......and makes this story a good read.

Comment; a few of the side trips and the ending are weak, but all in all a good and constantly developing adventure that will hold your interest.
A professional gambler, on a whim, goes to a deadly planet and gets in the middle of a grisly war. Some interesting ideas, if you can get past the one-man-against-all-odds plot.
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I expected something much different and got something surprisingly better. I won't say too much, but you'll recognize the underlying theme, nature turns mean, as something you've seen several times since this work was published -- and not done as well. A good read.
The ending was not satisfactory but the rest is worth reading. I thought the ending was typical of that time, and probably forced on the author by time or space constraints.
Deathworld was written by Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey, March 12, 1925) in 1960 and is the first of four novels (the last actually a short story).

Jason dinAlt (that is not a typo) is a professional gambler who uses his latent psionic powers to beat the house odds. Approached by a resident of the planet Pyrrus to turn a large sum of money into a huge sum of money, he accompanies his employer to what is known as the most deadliest planet in known space.

Wikipedia describes Harrison's work as "often hinges around the contrast between the thinking man and the man of force, although the "Thinking Man" often needs ultimately to employ force himself," and the story is a fun read as dinAlt struggles to solve the mystery of Pyrrus through brain and not brawn.

The novella is well worth the read.