Case of Conscience (Sf Masterworks 30) by James Blish

By James Blish

Father Ramon Ruiz-Sanchez S.J., is part of a 4 guy clinical fee to the planet Lithia, there to review a harmonious society of extraterrestrial beings dwelling on a planets that is a biologist's paradise. He quickly reveals himself stricken: how can those ideal beings, dwelling in an obvious Eden, haven't any perception of sin or God? If the sort of sinless Eden has been created except God, then who's accountable?

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He had been profoundly asleep, and had no notion of his situation in space or time. At his convulsive twist away from the nagging voice, the hammock rotated on its hooks and dumped him. He struck the floor stunningly, taking the main blow across his right shoulder, though he hardly felt it yet. His feet, not yet part of him at all, still remained far aloft, twisted in the hammock webbing. "What the hell-" There was a brief chain of footsteps, like chestnuts dropping on a roof, and then a hollow noise of something hitting the floor near his head.

It seemed to the Jesuit to be religious—yet the Lithians had no religion, and they certainly ate many of the creatures of the sea without qualms of conscience. He dropped the jungle suit into his lap with a sigh, though the popcorned tooth still was not completely trimmed hack into shape. Outside, in the humid darkness, Lithia was in full concert. It was a vital, somehow fresh, new-sounding drone, covering most of the sound spectrum audible to an Earthman. It came from the myriad insects of Lithia.

The reaction was setting in. "Exactly so," Ruiz-Sanchez said. "But that's only half the story. '" "Read me no tracts, Father," Cleaver said. Then: "I didn't mean that. I'm sorry… But for a physicist, this place is hell… You'd better get me that aspirin. " Ruiz-Sanchez went quickly back into the lab, made up a salicylate-barbiturate paste in one of the Lithians' superb mortars, and pressed it into a set of pills. ) He wished he could stamp each pill "Bayer" before it set—if Cleaver's personal cure-all was aspirin, it would have been just as well to let him think he was taking aspirin—but of course he had no dies for the purpose.

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