Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis
Finriddy and Carson – everyone on Earth knows their names should be synonymous with Lewis and Clarke. The are the explorers on the planet Boohte. They also are featured in the ridiculous popups (entertainment holograms). Fin looks at the actors playing themselves and wonders who glamorized them.
Fin and Carson are two busy, tired, dirty, knowledgeable scientists. They take long treks on Boohte with their indigenous guide, Bult, mapping out the planet. Boohte has one remarkable feature – a long wall of cylindrical type dwellings. Humans have not been able to examine them closely because of all the rules and regulations of protecting the existing environment of the planet.
Then Evelyn shows up as a loaner to help them on one of their trips. The socioexobiologist studies mating habits of creatures. The scientist also seems attracted to Fin – or is that just imagination? The trio and guide are going to a new area of Boohte, an uncharted region. Their lives, and the planet Boohte, will change because of this expidition.
Uncharted Territory is a witty novella written by Connie Willis. It is humorous throughout the book, even when it deals with the important issue. Humans are exploring a new planet. They are supposed to leave it undisturbed, in the condition it was found. They are also exploring the planet not only for knowledge, but another reason. Fin and Carson know that if they discover new supplies of ore or oil, the Earth government will try to find a way to exploit it.
Because of the length of Uncharted Territory, the characters are not in depth. Yet Willis does a fine job making them come to life, hiding the twist that doesn’t appear until the middle of the book, and describing the planet she has envisioned along with the strange Wall. This book isn’t so much a study of science fiction but as a study of people. And people don’t change.