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Literature / A World Called Maanerek

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"A World Called Maanerek" is a novelette by Poul Anderson, published in Galaxy Science Fiction magazine in 1957. It is also known as "Memory", the title under which it subsequently appeared in the collection Beyond the Beyond.

Maanerek is a planet with a preindustrial, tribal society, which is being studied by a ship from the interstellar Hegemony preparatory to an invasion. The ship abducts two of the planet's inhabitants, Sonna and her love interest Torrek. Torrek had appeared one day with no memory of his prior life, and it is now revealed that he is a member of the ship's crew. With his own memory restored, and his memories of life as Torrek erased, Korul Wanen is once again a happy unit in the Hegemony—or is he?

This work contains examples of:

  • Amnesiac Resonance: Korul Wanen was abandoned on Maanerek with his memory blanked, then recovered and restored to his previous memories. Even before he is restored, things come back to him, and afterwards, he turns on his old friends and loyalties to help the people of Maanerek. A psychologist explains it by a mind not being so separated from the body after all.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: It's mentioned that the Hegemony ship, having suffered too many discipline problems, had taken over part of a planet and let the men abuse the men and children there, and rape the women, freely to release their pent-up aggression.
  • Curious Qualms of Conscience: Wanen starts having these after his return from Maanerek, questioning things about the Hegemony that he had always accepted as for the good of the many.
  • Damsel in Distress: Sonna, captured by the Hegemony's spaceship. The ship decides to use Sonna as a "tension release" by lobomotizing her and letting the men rape her. Wanen, his memories not so gone as they thought, rescues her before his own escape.
  • Defector from Decadence: Horlam. He admits that in watching the crew for deviance, he had not been watched himself.
  • Dystopia: The Hegemony is out to force all mankind in unity, to hold loyalty only to the Cadre. They choose their mates, who are allowed contact seldom, and all children are raised in creches. Your life position is choosen when you are bred for it, and entails burning out parts of your mind if you are lowly enough. When ships sent out to find more humans to bring them into the fold, they will freely, when problems mount too high, take over part of a planet and let the men run wild with Cold-Blooded Torture and rape to release their aggressions.
  • Dystopia Is Hard: The pressures to conform to the Hegemony's loyalty requirements cause serious problems within the society and still more on shipboard. When a ship gets too bad, they take over part of a planet and let the men rape and torture the inhabitants at will to release pressure. Wanen, having lived for five years after being mind blanked among another people, reverts to that people in spite of having no memories of them—their more natural way of living had affected him in a way no loss of memory could eradicate.
  • A Friend in Need: Smit thinks he is being this when he suggests that Wanen could watch a woman being lobotomized, have the first chance to rape her, and then throw her out the airlock when she was used up—"tension release" as the Hegemony puts it.
  • Government Drug Enforcement: The Hegemony's "units" have to take many drugs to fit into their unnatural culture.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Wanen had his mind blanked to see what would happen in another culture. Then it was blanked again and the original restored. Turns out it wasn't as neat as they thought—he remembers something both ways.
  • Manly Tears: Wanen breaks free from the ship, rescuing Sonna—and accidentally bringing along Horlam—and then destroys it. Then he collapses, weeping so violently that Sonna is frightened.
  • Species Loyalty: Sonna is impressed by the Hegemony's efforts to re-unite humanity until she realizes the horrific nature of their methods.
  • Traumatic Haircut: Sonna is threatened with this; the doctor who will perform her lobotomy explains that first they will remove her hair, which will be interesting in itself, since many primitive women are proud of their hair. Wanen rescues her first.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: The Hegemony justifies its oppression of "units" and its ruthless expansion with extreme cruelty to the planets it finds on the grounds that by spreading itself it will unite all of humankind.