Me & Abbey Rhodes

Preface: Having not posted a new climate-related article for a while, I decided to shift your attention to some of my other writing. On Quora, writing under my pen name, Abbey Rhodes, I created a space called The Climate Crisis, which I invite you to follow: https://theclimatecrisis.quora.com  In addition to my articles, nearly two hundred other writers, scientists, pundits and everyday people contribute. The only things we share are a deep concern for humanity’s future, hope and a desire to spread the accurate news about the climate solutions already at hand.

As many of you know, I’m also a book addict. Feeding that habit is one of the luxuries I’ve enjoyed since leaving the business world. I’ve also had the time to write reviews of my favorite books — I think of them more as book reports. You can check-out a few hundred of them by clicking ‘What Rhody’s Reading’ at the top of this menu.

Below: My reaction to a book that somehow found its way into my hands.

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Published in 1971 by Dimitri V. Gat, The Shepherd is My Lord is a sci-fi-rendered indictment of today’s global corporations. What begins as a ‘boldly go where no human has gone before’ space travel escapade turns quickly into a deadly serious quest for what went wrong with humanity.

ShepherdIsMyLordCenturies in the future, Agar is an Advance Examiner for Galactic Enterprises, the largest corporation in the known universe. Travelling in Deep Space Mode, it has taken him no more than a week to reach an unexplored planet at the edge of the galaxy.

Space probes have already discerned intelligent life and a multitude of resources on Planet 4. Agar’s job is to welcome the planet’s inhabitants into the Brotherhood of Ten Thousand Planets. When he lands, he discovers beautiful blue-scaled reptilian creatures frolicking in fields of flowers and lounging under giant multi-colored trees playing music.

Agar knows the ropes. Sample their speech, set-up an AI translator with stage, sound and screen and show the unenlightened beings the wonders of an advanced technological civilization and all its amenities. He’s done it a hundred times. Sure, some of the situations got messy, rebellion, war and the occasional planet meltdown. But he’s pretty sure that most of time, people are quite happy to become citizens of the galaxy. Still, something’s bugging him. There are hints of an awakened conscience.

[Spoiler alert: If you’re a Sci-Fi fan and want to read this largely unknown author, stop here.]

After abruptly wrapping up his presentation, ready to abandon Planet 4 to its own path of evolution, Agar’s ship picks up a signal at one of the planet’s poles. He discovers a giant orb sunk deep into the soil. When it finally opens, he’s drawn down into it where he meets a group of superior beings who call themselves the Shepherds.

They show Agar a world of vastly expanded senses, light, colors and sounds that span the universe. Travel is instantaneous. You need only think it to be on a distant planet. Communication is a sharing of minds, yet everyone maintains individuality. Having sensed Agar’s newfound compassion, the Shepherds invite him to join them. They demonstrate their ability to take physical form anytime they want, but point out that Agar would be leaving his old body behind.

Loyal to his wife and son, Agar rejects the Shepherds’ offer. He does so with a promise to try everything in his power to change the cruel colonizing practices of Galactic Enterprises. What he discovers shakes the foundations of his life. Everything he thought he knew about his world is wrong.

Agar’s story of the Shepherds places him in front of the highest-ranking officers of Galactic Enterprises and, finally, in front of the galaxy’s supreme power — the Congregation of Elders of the Planets. Everyone he meets ultimately wants to know one thing. How can we destroy the Shepherds?

Vehemently confronted by one of the elders, filled with frustration that no one seems to believe that the Shepherds have no ill intent, Agar strikes out. The head of the elder shatters, revealing a mess of circuitry.

Desperate to get Agar to reveal more, the President of Galactic Enterprises levels with him. Centuries ago, corporate leaders called ‘The Organization’ began executing a very long-term plan.

Frustrated by all the regulations governing the exploration of new planets, they began to replace government leaders one-by-one with their own people. They bought or coerced politicians until they had complete control of the legislation that was passed. To disguise their efforts, they’d let the other side win a few, but they’d already projected that the regulations that resulted would have minimal impact on their profits.

Their final hurdle was the Star Chamber Court. Well-paid and appointed for life, the judges were difficult to coerce.

“But in time this obstacle fell as well. Organization men were waiting in the wings. Securing their election to the high bench proved to be no problem.” In a hundred years, the Organization’s control was complete. To further the public’s perception of a fair government and fair competition among the worlds’ enterprises, they secretly bought out all the other corporations.

Dimitri V. Gat was a librarian at Holyoke College in Massachusetts when he wrote this novel. As far as I can tell, he never wrote another novel. It leaves me wondering if he foresaw the 2020’s – fifty years in the future — with its $trillion corporations, multi-billionaires, oligarchs and rabid global capitalism. With that insight in 1971, perhaps he despaired of further examination of the future.

In case your interest is piqued, I’ll withhold the plight of Agar. As an old science fiction fan, who thought he’d run out of great authors, I’m happy to have discovered The Shepherd is My Lord. Nearly as much as I was to discover my first Philip K. Dick book.

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