A Case of Conscience
Author: James Blish
Release Date: 1958
The early Hugo award winners have fallen into two groups for me: books with great ideas but average/poor execution (“The Demolished Man,” “They’d Rather Be Right,” and “The Big Time”) and books with smaller ideas that are really well written (anything by Heinlein). This book fell into the former category, with four Earth scientists having to make a decision on whether to open up an alien planet to Earth travel. The main character is a very religious man who faces… A case of conscience.
The problems are twofold. First, the initial dilemma is debated over about 8 pages total in the book, and the religious character doesn’t use any good logical rationale to support his belief in his position. Second, more of the book is devoted to a storyline about the **spoiler alert** alien they bring home who only wants to cause insurrection on Earth.
The idea of the serpent in the garden of Eden was in the back of my head while reading this and it did eventually get discussed (and then discarded by the sudden, violent ending). While I can’t call this a good book, it did have a cool initial concept and made me think a little, hence the three stars.