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Literature / A Planet Called Treason

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A Planet Called Treason is a 1979 novel by Orson Scott Card, later slightly revised and re-released as simply Treason.

On the eponymous planet, a group of families were banished by The Republic over three thousand years ago for arrogantly attempting to usurp the government and install a meritocracy where only the intellectual elite (read: them) would rule. Treason, despite being a habitable planet, contains very little iron (and none of it easily reachable by the surface), so the families were essentially doomed to live out the rest of their lives in primitiveness. However, The Republic decided to throw the families a bone: small teleporters, given to each family, called "Ambassadors". Place something of value in the Ambassador, and if The Republic deems it satisfactory, they will send back a lump of iron in its place. Three millennia on, the families have become warring nations, fighting on horseback and with swords over the iron, each in a race to become the first family to finally build a spaceship and escape Treason.

Lanik Mueller, the 16-year-old heir apparent to the Mueller throne, makes a dark discovery about himself. The Mueller family was founded by a geneticist, and over the millennia their genetic expertise let them gradually improve their own DNA, to the point where the Muellers are well-known for their incredible Healing Factor. Able to regrow limbs and shrug off injuries that would normally be mortal wounds to other men, the Muellers are fearsome on the battlefield.

However, the Muellers' gift comes with a downside: occasionally, a few times a generation, a Mueller is born whose Healing Factor is cranked up to eleven. Despite looking normal as a child, this "radical regenerative" Mueller begins sprouting extra legs, arms, and other organs in adolescence. Try cutting off these extra limbs and they just grow right back.

Lanik is one of these "radical regeneratives", and as he begins to sprout body parts he should not have, he is shamed from royalty. His father, the king, spares Lanik from death or the fate of other radical regeneratives (which is to be treated as cattle, repeatedly having their extra limbs cut off and fed to the Ambassador for iron). Instead, the father sends Lanik on a mission to one of the neighboring nations called Nkumai, which used to be peaceful but recently and suddenly began warring and conquering other nations while wielding improbable amounts of iron.

This book provides examples of:

  • Arrow Catch: Lanik does this in a sense, but ups the badass level to impossible by slowing time (really just speeding himself up so that everyone else appears to be moving in 100x slow motion) right as a squad of archers shoot at his friend. In quicktime, he grabs the arrows and sticks them into the wall behind his friend. The archers, who are an execution squad, are perplexed, but fire again. This time, he goes into quicktime just after they fire, takes the arrows out of midair, and stabs them back through the respective archers' hands.
  • Body Horror: Lanik is a radical regenerative who grows extra genitalia, arms, heads, everything. He winds up growing a clone of himself and freaks out. Lanik is a member of a nation that has been genetically modified to heal quickly from virtually all wounds, and even regrow limbs. During puberty, it is common for them to grow extra body parts, which are subsequently removed. Occasionally, a mutation occurs in which the extra body parts, as well as many additional ones, continue to regrow, resulting in monstrosities (at one point, Lanik has at least five legs, four arms (and probably more), four ears, two noses, three sets of genitalia, and two hearts).
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • One of the time-monks puts himself on fast-forward as far as it'll go because he feels he's lived too long.
    • After being conquered, Lanik's father jumps off a cliff head-first into a lake, breaking his neck in order to paralyze himself long enough to drown.
  • From a Single Cell: The Muellers genetically engineered themselves to a state in which they can regenerate organs, so that they can sell them to eventually buy their way home. Occasionally, a mutant like the protagonist appears whose regenerative abilities approach this level — but he also grows extraneous body parts that eventually cripple, then kill him. At one point, his guts are ripped out, producing a feral copy.
  • The Grotesque: Lanik. At first, his radical regeneration just gives him breasts, but as time goes on, he starts growing an extra arm on his back. And then another. And then an extra leg, and another... This is used by Lanik to his advantage later in the book after he's captured by slavers. They throw him in a hold on their ship, not knowing what he is. While down in the hold, he continually grows new limbs and nearly losing his mind. After a while, he begs for them to let him up and see the sun. They open up the cell...and immediately back up in fear. Seeing a chance to escape, Lanik plays on their fear, roaring and scuttling around until they let him go.
  • Healing Factor: After hundreds of generations of eugenics, the Muellers are able to heal ridiculously fast, even from injuries that would normally kill anyone else, such as having an arm lopped off or a throat cut out. The only things that are sure to kill Muellers is beheading, a fall from a great height, or drowning. They routinely cut off each other's fingers and pry out eyes in childhood squabbles. Puberty is kind of spectacular in them: in their teenage years, their healing factor gets somewhat out of control, and they constantly grow many redundant body parts. Their body stabilizes once they reach maturity... except for the "radical regeneratives" whose healing factor remains out of control permanently. Such poor souls lose all rights and are treated as cattle from which organs are harvested for trade. Halfway through the book, Lanik's body is so gruesomely destroyed that the healing factor malfunctions spectacularly and accidentally regenerates his loose innards into a living conjoined twin. When Lanik recovers from feverishness enough to realize what has happened, he cuts off the twin and kills him in a panic... but the twin has the healing factor too, so it regenerates and becomes Lanik's Evil Twin.
  • Hermaphrodite: Apparently a normal phase for Muellers in puberty, with their "real" sex eventually winning out. Unfortunately for radical regeneratives, this becomes permanent, since the out-of-control Healing Factor can't distinguish between what's genuine and what's not....
  • Master of Illusion: There's a tribe that specializes in this. The only way they can be detected is by moving in a faster relative timeframe (the trait of another tribe). It leads to some squicky revelations in regard to a prior encounter when Lanik realizes that it wasn't a woman who seduced him.
  • Metal-Poor Planet: Treason has no readily accessible iron, except for that provided via teleporters by The Republic. The story starts off when the Nkumai start conquering their neighbors using improbable numbers of iron weapons.
  • Necessarily Evil: Lanik wipes out a subspecies because its illusion powers are too dangerous to leave in existence, but he knows full well that those he's killing include innocents who don't abuse their powers. Towards the end, only his certainty that it was necessary is keeping him sane.
  • One-Product Planet: A variant of this trope on a planetary level. Each region on the planet is a service provider, specializing in different areas: biology, theology, genetic engineering, and acting, to name a few.
  • Penal Colony: Treason was this for the original rebels and continues to be so for their descendants.
  • Psychic Powers: Two factions of the original rebel families mellowed out when they developed these. One began communicating with Treason itself, allowing them to control stone and earth, but becoming Perfect Pacifist People because they involuntarily feel it when they cause the death of another creature. The others learn how to manipulate time, slowing down or speeding up as they want. The protagonist learns both earth and time magic, and is cured of his mutation by the former. When his family is driven out of their homeland, he brings them home to the time-monks, who teach it to everyone.
  • Time Stands Still: The Ku Kuei can manipulate the flow of time around them. Depending on which way they manipulate it, Time Stands Still for them, or for those around them.
  • Twelfth Night Adventure: Lanik develops breasts due to his genetic disorder and parleys it into the opportunity to infiltrate an all-female society.

Alternative Title(s): Treason