Warm Blooded Animals. Cold Blooded Animals. Revenge. Genetic Engineering. Longer Winters. Dissenters.
Originally published in the 1980’s, West of Eden by Harry Harrison is an alternative pre-history novel. It explores the question of what would have happened if the major cold-blooded animals had not been wiped out by an asteroid and had continued to evolve.
Briefly, the ice-age is approaching. The cities of the Yilané, a reptilian species, are created from biological materials which cannot withstand the growing cold. The Yilané must begin to move to warmer climates. While building a city in a new location, they encounter the Tanu, basically early humans. Both sides commit massacres and seek revenge. Early on in the story a young Tanu, Kerrick, is taken captive. He is taught the Yilané’s language and to some extent is incorporated into their culture. The person responsible for overseeing the construction of the new city uses him for her own political gain. Years later when he finally escapes, he is confused about his identity and loyalties. He finally joins with his own people to prevent their total obliteration.
I really enjoyed this novel. Harry Harrison does a nice job of world building. He describes both species well. The biological engineering twists to the Yilané environment are interesting, though some border on fantasy rather than science fiction. Kerrick is a relatable character. The story has lost little relevancy in the nearly thirty years since it was first published.