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Literature / The Far Side of Evil

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The Far Side of Evil is a novel by Sylvia Louise Engdahl, and is the companion novel to Enchantress from the Stars.

It is meant to be taken more literally than the previous novel.

Elana and Randil are two young Federation field agents sent to the planet Toris, which is on the verge of a nuclear war. They are sent to Cerne, a city under totatilarian rule by the Neo-Statists. Randil falls in love with Kari, a Torisian college student, and believes that the Federation is letting Toris be destroyed on purpose to gather more data about the "Critical Stage", the stage where a civilization has the capacity to destroy itself or expand into space. He comes up with a plan to save Toris which may just hasten the war he wants to prevent. Elana must prevent this from happening.


This book provides examples of:

  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Federation's policy of non-interference.
  • Aliens Steal Cable: The Federation learns about Torisian culture via radio and television waves.
  • Author Tract: This book is an expression of the importance of mankind expanding into space to save itself.
  • Electric Torture: The Neo-Statists use a machine that directly affects pain receptors with electricity.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Subverted when referring to the mental capacity of Torisians, played straight in that civilizations must "evolve" and expand into space to be more advanced.
  • The Federation: The Federation which Elana comes from.
  • Human Aliens: Elana's race and the Torisians look almost identical, that is, human.
  • Imported Alien Phlebotinum: Randil gives a Federation ship to the Neo-Statists, who don't have any ships of their own.
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  • Invisible Aliens: The Federation is this to the Torisians.
  • Magic Feather: Elana gives Kari a pill she says will activate her telepathic powers.
  • Mind over Matter: Elana disables a camera and microphone with telekinesis.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Randil disguises himself as a Jutan and gives the Neo-Statists a Federation ship, believing it to be the key to the start of a space program. However, the Neo-Statists intend to use it to drop bombs on their enemies.
  • Self-Destruct Mechanism: The signalling ship came with one in case of discovery by the Torisians.
  • Telepathy: The Federation field agents can use telepathy, and Elana teaches Kari to use it.
  • Too Kinky to Torture: Elana is able to withstand interrogation because of her ability to feel pain but not be emotionally affected by it. She is also versed in Youngling psychology and is able to avoid mental pitfalls experienced during interrogation.


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