Can you imagine living for several decades thinking that you are the last human in the galaxy?

Relic

By Alan Dean Foster

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Ruslan is the last man alive – in the entire galaxy. Now, when I say, “the last man,” I mean the last human.

Thousands of years into the future, mankind has created a biological agent that seeks and destroys human life. While humanity has reached out to the stars and has settled on dozens of worlds, their manufactured plague is carried from world to world, destroying all of the human life it encounters. Except for Ruslan.

After spending decades wandering his home planet of Seraboth, completely and utterly alone, Ruslan is discovered and rescued by a race of aliens called the Myssari. They treat Ruslan well, though they refer to him as a specimen to be used for scientific study. Ruslan agrees to allow the Myssari to use his genetic material in an attempt to revive the human race. They even agree to help him locate the long, lost human home-world called Earth.


While Alan Dean Foster is undoubtedly a fine author, Relic seemed like a project he may have taken on just for the paycheck. I know that sounds harsh. I’m not saying that it was bad, it just wasn’t all that good. I didn’t really get to know the main character. I didn’t feel like I knew what he was thinking or how he would react to stimuli in the story. I think the main reason I didn’t fall in love this book was because the premise of the story was so far removed from any of my experiences that I did not feel a connection to any of the characters.

There was little urgency to resolve the problems the main characters encountered in the story, emphasized several times in the story where time leapt forward by years at a time.

The descriptions of the aliens and their technology was just enough that you could begin to assemble a vague image of them in your mind. Very little time was spent helping the reader to “see” what the several worlds the characters visited really looked like. It actually felt as though it was expected that I, as the reader, had prior knowledge of the alien species and environments encountered in the story. However, the same descriptions of two main alien species were offered multiple times throughout the book.


The main theme in this book was the self-destructive nature of humanity. The story tells of a society that had reached out to the stars and had colonized dozens of worlds over the course of thousands of years. Whole civilizations rose and fell among the stars until humanity finally killed itself.

The alien species described in the story were in awe that such an advanced race of beings would meet such an egregious end. As they studied the records of thousands of years of human history found on the now desolate worlds where humans once lived, they marveled at the violent tendencies and the proclivity toward war. That’s not to say that the alien species never fought amongst themselves or that they never acted in violence. There were many times in the story where one race took action through a show of force, though they rarely used deadly force – it was always posturing, followed by the use of stun weapons, followed by diplomatic apologies for such impolite behavior.


The following is my favorite quote from “Relic.”

“The Myssari reacted to rain much as they did to everything else, with aplomb and a disposition that was invariably sunnier than the weather itself. They evinced none of the gloom that would have afflicted a corresponding trio of humans. To them rain invariably meant growth, renewal, a refreshing of the world. Depending on individual mood, to a human it could mean that, or a moodiness that might linger.”

p.111

I thought this was interesting because it is such a different outlook on rain than what I have. I find rain and the accompanying grayness and moisture to be oppressive and depressing. Maybe I should be more like the Myssari! Although they are more clinical in their approach to life, they appreciate the benefits provided by their surroundings instead of worrying about how it makes them feel.


I found that I had to look up the definition of more words while reading this book than any other book I’ve read in the last ten years! It seemed like every page had at least one word that I had never seen before, and it was a word that was obscure enough that even having studying Greek and Latin root words in 5th grade wasn’t enough to give me even an inkling of the meaning.

Here are a few of my favorite new words:

insouciance: a casual lack of concern; indifference
somnolence: a state of strong desire for sleep, or sleeping for unusually long periods
lugubrious: looking or sounding sad and dismal
opprobrium: harsh criticism or censure
ameliorate: make (something bad or unsatisfactory) better
ebullient: cheerful and full of energy
salubrious: health-giving; healthy
conurbation: an extended urban area, typically consisting of several towns merging with the suburbs of a central city


I didn’t hate this book, but I didn’t love it either. I want to love the characters and relate to one or more them. I didn’t get that from this book. I also enjoy reading books that really make me think about what could be. This book didn’t really inspire me to put myself in the main character’s shoes. He whined throughout the story, mentioning several times he didn’t feel that he deserved to be alive and that it might be better if he were dead, just like the rest of humanity.

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