Surveying. Regulations. Fines. Birds. Partners. Courtship Rituals.
Uncharted Territory is a very short novel—probably, technically a novella—by Connie Willis. This amusing story is the first space fiction that I have read by Willis. I found the premise a bit odd, but I was entertained. The story has the feel of a short story.
Briefly, Carson and Findriddy, long-time partners, are surveying the planet Boohte, but are being hampered by regulations. It seems the indigenous population has been given the power to impose fines for practically anything. In order to reduce the number of fines, the surveyors use horses for transportation. When Findriddy discovers that a section of the planet has been mysteriously overlooked, the two partners, their indigenous guide Bult, and a newcomer, the socioexozoologist Evelyn, go on an expedition to the territory. Evelyn it turns out is a great fan of Carson and Findriddy and is also a specialist in sex. The surveying team goes on to make some interesting discoveries.
I felt out of sync with most of the story. It contains numerous incidents of Bult fining the surveyors for ridiculous things, but I was only mildly amused. My logical mind couldn’t understand why someone specializing in sex would be sent to a planet like Boohte for surveying. Finally, finally, near the end of the story, I felt that I was reading a touching story.
Uncharted Territory is the first novel in the omnibus Future Imperfect, which contains three short novels by Connie Willis.