Books : reviews

Pauline Ashwell.
Unwillingly to Earth.
Tor. 1992

rating : 4 : passes the time
review : 28 October 2000

Lizzie Lee is a farmer's daughter on a backward mining planet. She is functionally illiterate since she can't use the reading machines any faster than 800 words per minute. Nevertheless, she is bright, and a series of accidents land her a place on a Cultural Engineering course at a prestigious Earth university, where she most emphatically does not want to go. But, due to the same accidents, she has no real choice, so she goes, kicking and screaming. Once there, however, things start to improve.

This reads like four novellas glued together: Lizzie's life at home, an adventure on her first holiday the moon, an adventure during her first Field Study, and an adventure after graduation. This means there is not as much depth as there might have been; in particular some of the Cultural Engineering solutions seem a bit simplistic. But each adventure is fun, as we see Lizzie keep doing the right thing, usually for the right reason, if often under protest. Written in the first person, with a brash, no-nonsense, slightly fractured syntax and Lots of Capitals, this is a pleasing page turner. Apart from the abrupt, ghastly, saccharine ending, that is.