rating: 3 of 5 stars
Orn is the second book in the 'Of Man and Manta' trilogy, following on directly from the first book in which a trio of unlikely human explorers were stranded on a planet with an ecology based on fungoid life forms. In 'Orn' the humans are dispatched through a portal to an apparently primitive, Earth like planet to explore and report on its suitability for colonization. They are accompanied by a group of Mantas - the intelligent fungi from the first book that fulfil the carnivore role in their particular ecology. They quickly realise that the world they are on is either the Earth of 65 million years ago, complete with Palaeolithic creatures and an enclave of Cretaceous era dinosaurs, or stranger still it may be a parallel world. Alternating with their story of exploration and discovery is the tale of Orn, a large, intelligent bird creature and his struggle to survive and breed.
This is a fascinating book, dealing with ecology and evolution in great detail as well as the more esoteric subjects of parallel universes. It will certainly be of interest to anyone wanting to know more about natural selection or Palaeolithic flora and fauna. The flaws lie in the unsubtle and stereotypical characterisations of the three human protagonists and the love triangle between them. The resolution feels a little forced, echoing the events of the first book, but perhaps it is the curse of the second book in a trilogy striking again.
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