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On the dusty, remote plains of Kenya, Royce Crawford runs a baboonery, a way station for animals captured and awaiting shipment to research laboratories in America. He, his wife, two children, and his small staff live in virtual isolation from the rest of the world. One day there is a strange light in the East African sky, and the baboons start disappearing from their cages. When Crawford tracks them down, he finds that the animals have changed. The strange look of cold intelligence in their eyes reveals to Crawford that he is no longer the hunter, but the hunted. Something with a mind as different from his as his is from the baboons is using the animals to study him. Sensing an alien intelligence somewhere in the African bush, Crawford and his small group begin a desperate fight for survival against the unknown, in which the author, a professional anthropologist asks the question: Which side of the microscope are we really looking through?
UNEARTHLY NEIGHBORS (1960) was Chad Oliver's fourth novel and his fifth book of fiction (counting 1955's distinguished short story collection, Another Kind). With it he closed a decade of impressive growth as a writer, by carrying forward his favorite theme of contact between intelligent species to a level of complexity and drama rarely seen in works of science fiction. "Chad Oliver continues to put his anthropology degree to good use," wrote Frederik Pohl. "Other science fiction writers have invented more 'alien' aliens than these for us to make contact with. Few, though, have been as able as Oliver to convince us that this is the way first contact is going to be." As humankind reaches out across the light years to confront another humanity, we see how both forms of intelligence are compelled to face their own inner natures before they can even begin to understand each other. Being alien, in Oliver's sensitive analysis, is not just a matter of physiological differences, but also a dimension of culture and history overlaid on the biology.
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