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Earthman's Burden Paperback – Dec 1979

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1st Avon edition paperback fine In stock shipped from our UK warehouse

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 10 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Sentient Teddy Bears? 25 Sept. 2000
By TJ - Published on
Format: Paperback
In a distant time, spaceman Alexander Jones crashes his ship on a planet...which just happens to be inhabited by a population of sentient...well...Teddy Bears. These creatures call themselves Hoka, and they have a rather peculiar culture. These Hokans possess an unparalleled imagination, and they evolve their culture around what they observe and learn.
For example, this book is actually a collection of short stories, and each story revolves around a cultural theme: In one, the Hokas act like American cowboys in the Old West, after reading Western paperbacks left by previous human visitors. In another, they create an English culture, complete with a Hokan Sherlock Holmes.
Our intrepid spaceman, Alexander Jones, becomes enamored with these creatures (although quite exasperated at times) and takes the highly regarded position of plenipotentiary to the Hokan race, where has to overcome the challenges of a race that can completely change it's culture and lifestyle at a whim.
All in all, an engaging and heartwarming scifi book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
No Burden In Reading This One 24 Jun. 2007
By Dave_42 - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Earthman's Burden" includes a fun series of stories by Poul Anderson & Gordon R. Dickson. The stories included introduce the Hokas, a race which resembles teddy bears and which likes to mimic the behavior they see in Earth entertainment and history. Included in this collection are the first five Hoka stories, and a sixth story written for this book which takes place chronologically between the events of the original first two stories.

"The Sheriff of Canyon Gulch" is a short story which was originally published in "Other Worlds" in May of 1951 under the title of "Heroes Are Made". In this story, Alexander Jones meets the Hokas after crash landing on Toka, a world shared by the Hokas, and the reptilian Slissii who prey on the Hokas. At this point, the Hokas have already adopted the Wild West lifestyle which they got from earlier contact with humans. The easy going Hokas are fighting a losing battle with the Slissii, who they have taken to calling Indians, and Alex is desperately trying to get them to help him get back to the main ship. This story is a good start to the series.

"Don Jones" is a novelette which was written for this collection, and in this story we find Alexander Jones on Earth with the job of entertaining the Hoka delegation. Unfortunately, they have discovered Italian Opera, and specifically Don Giovanni. With a jealous and insecure girlfriend, a beautiful coworker, and a boss who has it in for him, Alexander has his work cut out for him in trying to contain the playful Hokas. Probably the weakest story in the book, but still a fun read.

"In Hoka Signo Vinces" is a short story which was first published in "Other Worlds" in June of 1953. In this story, Alexander Jones is worried about the Pornians, an alien race who has started to build militarily while the rest of the civilized races have disarmed. Meanwhile, the Hokas have taken to playing Space Patrol, using Jones' courier ship, and he finds himself swept away in their role playing. Unfortunately, their game has them headed right towards the Pornians' new dreadnaught. This story is another fun episode in the series.

"The Adventure of the Misplaced Hound" is a novelette which was first published in "Universe" in December of 1953. In this story, Earth is concerned with a smuggler who is hiding on Toka, in an area where the Hokas have mimicked a Victorian lifestyle. Alexander Jones search for the smuggler leads him quite naturally to the Hokan Sherlock Holmes, to which he plays Watson. This story was nominated for the 2004 Retro Hugo for novelettes written in the year 1953, and for good reason.

"Yo Ho Hoka!" is a novelette which was first published in "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" in March of 1955. In this story, Alexander Jones is concerned that the Hokas imitations of Earth history will result in his dismissal as plenipotentiary if Earth hears about their imitating pirates. He sets out to lead the navy against the pirates and put an end to their mischief, but instead finds himself pressed into service. Once again, events seem to spiral out of control, and he finds himself with the name of Greenbeard and acting as the Admiral of the pirate fleet. This story ranks right up there with the previous one.
"The Tiddlywink Warriors" is a novelette which was first published in "The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction" in August of 1955. In this story, Alexander Jones finds himself under the watchful eye of Jorkins Brassard, who is the Cultural Development Inspector, and who prevents Alexander from taking action when his wife crash lands on Telko, the planet closer to the Tokan sun, which is inhabited by a very violent tribal race who holds her prisoner. Brassard forbids the use of advanced technology to rescue her, so Alexander is forced to seek out the Hoka version of the French Foreign Legion to help him. As usual, things don't go exactly as planned

This is an easy to read series of stories, and very suitable for light entertainment. The stories are linked together by messages being sent to and from Earth, but those aren't really needed and don't add much to the book. The collection was originally published in 1957, and worth seeking out if you have not read the stories. There is a second collection of Hoka stories titled simply "Hoka!", which was published in October of 1983.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Not only terribly funny, but also incredibly clever! 14 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
It makes you laugh when you are alone in your room to read it. Does that happen often in your reading life? There's only another writer who is able to make me laugh that way and it's Robert Sheckley. If you like comedy in SF, buy this! You'll love the Hokas and their totally unbridled imagination. Or better, their total inability to make a difference between fact and fiction. Which is something that happens more and more often in our world, so it could be argued that we're all more or less Hokas, after all. It is a funny a clever book, and tells you a lot about life in a media-saturated world.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Life imitating art imitating life imitating ... 12 Jun. 2007
By Paul Weiss - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Earthman's Burden" is simply hilarious. When Ensign Alexander Braithwaite Jones crash landed on the planet Toka, 500 light years from earth, he encountered the Hokas, a cuddly race of aliens that (would you believe it?) resembled oversized, overstuffed teddy bears. The Hokas had the ability to absorb any trace of Earth culture they encountered, whether it be film, radio, television, music or books and reproduce it with devastatingly unpredictable and laugh-out-loud funny results. You'll see an entire world converted into the rootin', tootin' wild west, boffo grand opera in the Italian style starring Don Giovanni, a gaslit, atmospheric Victorian England featuring Sherlock Holmes stalking Grimpen Mire on the lookout for the Baskerville teddy bear, space patrollers, pirates and French legionnaires.

As I read the opening chapters, my initial reaction was to shake my head, blink twice and ponder whether Poul Anderson and Gordon Dickson had taken leave of their senses. Surely, this couldn't be serious science fiction! But sure enough, there it was ... the pearl - that serious message of biting satire buried under the flesh of a mountainous oyster of vaudeville and slapstick! Jones was appointed ambassador plenipotentiary to Toka and saddled with what an arrogant government top heavy with self indulgent bureaucratic stuffed shirts labeled "Earthman's Burden" - the responsibility "to raise the primitive". Earth's Chief Cultural Commissioner, referring to himself with the ever pompous royal "we", advised Jones:

"to be patient with the innocent sub-civilized being. We shall often find his attitude uncosmic, his mind naively fumbling in its attempts to grasp the nuances of that which we teach him. He gazes at us with clear, unknowing eyes that plead with us to show him the right way - the civilized way."

How delicious - a double-barreled satire! Two targets for the price of one. Anderson and Dickson impales the arrogance of humanity in its estimation of our importance in the universe while, at the same time, lustily lampooning the idiocies of government bureaucracy. Enjoy! You couldn't possibly read this without feeling uplifted and entertained.

Paul Weiss
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
funny 13 Aug. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
A race of teddy-bear aliens with a strange feature: Whenever they read a book or watch a movie, the whole planet starts imitating that scenario. This (obviously silly) premise leads to a pretty funny SF book in the hands of two very good writers.
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