A stand alone SF book. I have it as part of the Deep Beyond omnibus.

Publication year: 1985
Format: print
Page count: 208 in the omnibus
Publisher: Daw

The Cuckoo’s Egg is set in an alien world and the people who live there, the shonunin, look like lions. Duun is a shonun and belongs to a group called hatani; they seem to be a kind of jedi-like warriors and judges. However, they don’t own anything so they aren’t a ruling class.

In fact, Duun has been grievously hurt and his people can’t even bear to look at him. Still, he seems to have a very high status among them. He takes upon himself the task of raising and training an male alien almost from birth. He gives the hairless, clawless alien the name Thorn and trains him according to the best Hatani traditions. Essentially, he teaches the boy to become a warrior and not to ever trust anyone. We see glimpses of the political situation from time to time and more, of course, as Thorn grows.

This is again a tight book. There aren’t much descriptions and the reader has to infer pretty much everything from context.

Thorn is clearly an outsider just from the way that he looks and he wonders often about it when he’s growing up, but Duun never explains anything until the very end. However, Duun also raised Thorn as an outsider from shonunin culture; Thorn grows up on an isolated mountain and doesn’t meet other (shounin) people until he’s almost grown. Duun himself seems to also be an outsider but perhaps more by choice than birth.

Many times I felt sorry for poor Thorn who is thrust into to situation which seems quite cold and harsh both emotionally and physically. Sometimes I wondered if Thorn was even physically capable of the feats Duun demanded of him and surely in a human society Duun would have been accused of child abuse. But Duun doesn’t do it to be cruel but to prepare Thorn for what is to come.

However, I wasn’t really happy with the ending. I don’t think Thorn should have been able to do what was demanded of him based on just his genes.

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