Stepsons of Terra – Robert Silverberg (1958)
‘They owed Mother Earth No Allegiance!
The first Corwinite in 500 years to visit Earth, Baird Ewing had been delegated by the desperate planetary colonists to seek the Mother Planet’s help against a destructive horde which would soon gall upon the planet Corwin.
But Earth… Earth had changed into a decadent, moldering world which could not even avoid her own destruction at the hands of the neighboring Sirians… much less help the distant and long-forgotten colony.
Earth had nothing to offer… except… maybe the secret of time travel!’
Blurb from the 1958 D-311 Ace Doubles paperback edition
The colony planet Corwin is under threat of invasion from the alien Klodni and Baird Ewing volunteers to return to the Mother Planet – with whom the colonists have had no contact in five hundred years – to beg for military aid.
Ewing discovers however that Earth had become a decadent world peopled by apathetic natives and no ships or armies to defend themselves.
His presence on Earth, despite this, has been noted. An academic researcher named Myreck contacts Ewing and asks if he will come to his College to give a talk about his colony world. He is also approached by citizens of the Sirius colony, the oldest of the Earth planetary colonies who are very suspicious of his presence and do not believe his claims of a non-human threat to human worlds.
The Sirians, who appear to exist in large numbers on Earth, are in the process of taking Earth over as a Sirian protectorate. They suspect Ewing of being a spy from the other colonies who may be plotting to move against them.
On his visit to Myreck’s college the scientists take Ewing on a tour of their laboratory which includes some working time travel equipment, although it is not until later in the novel that the significance of this comes into play.
It is worth noting that other Ace Doubles deal with issues of Humanity turning pacifist or at least non-military and suffering the consequences. (High, Bulmer). Although the subject is explored in different ways there seems to be a general sense of animosity toward the concept of a pacifist society. Silverberg does not outrightly condemn the concept but he certainly gives the impression that the males of Earth are listless and somewhat effeminate.
One has to consider whether these views of anti-pacifism (quite overtly hostile in the case of Bulmer) were a reaction to world events and changes in the social make-up of the time. The Korean War had only ended a few years before and the Vietnam War was ongoing. It’s difficult to say without further research if the issue of protests against war was a topic that authors consciously introduced in oblique ways into novels of the day.
After Ewing is drugged, kidnapped and interrogated by the Sirian Security Services, the pace steps up and Silverberg, to his credit, delivers up a pretty decent time paradox tale at the end of which Ewing realises how he can defeat the Klodni invasion and return to Earth to help throw off the yolk of the Sirian invaders.
It’s always interesting looking at early Silverberg novels. By this time he had already published three earlier novels for Ace and many short stories for various outlets. ‘Stepsons of Terra’ is certainly above the mean quality level for an Ace Double but does not give any hint of the high quality of writing he was later to produce.