Review: Monument

Book cover to Monument by Lloyd Biggle Jr
Monument by Lloyd Biggle Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The people of Langri have the Plan. And the Plan will hopefully be their salvation, even if no one else actually understands what the plan is all about. Langri was a largely unexplored planet with a human population that lived a mostly primitive (at least by the Federation's standards) life. But somewhere along the way, a visitor gave them the knowledge to be prepared for when the Federation discovered their planet and wish to take advance of the near-paradise conditions. One such person does appear, Wembley, and he works ceaselessly and illegally to swindle the natives out of their land and resources.

Biggle's novel is a fun story where the underdog, not only wins but knows they are going to win from the near beginning (ok, maybe about a third of the way). It has echoes to the present (some 40 years later) in the ways in which indigenous folk work hard to protect what is there and inevitably, businesses are always scheming to upend their resources, lands, and rights. As a science-fiction book, it's focus is not on first-contact but the technical, cultural, and legal complications of how such encounters can lead to integration. In that regard, the novel shows some of the legitimate threats even in peaceful conditions as well as aspects that may not have been widely covered in the 1970s. And while it's more general science-fiction than hard science-fiction, Biggle's depiction of how the law works is a fascinating consideration. When Wembley's and Langri's lawyers battle their cases, they use an interface where they put out their court citations and the machine will determine which cases have stronger merit. It's essentially a quantitative and technical way to run law, which is interesting and relevant to today as we increasingly see AI in criminal justice but not one that seems particularly effective. Still, the novel proves quirky and intriguing enough that it's definitely worth reading.

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