A novel where the male protagonist is a convict, where an overpopulated Earth sends their convicts to a barren planet. He and a few others end up re-creating/rebuilding a (somewhat) lawful civilization on this planet.

Remembered scenes:

  • he and a few thousand other newbies are dumped on the planet with a pile of supplies, turns out previous groups of convicts stake out these sites, steal the supplies and kill/leave the newbies to die.

  • He and other survivors begin to hike to what looks like green mountains but someone tells them the mountains aren't actually green - it's a mineral and they'll die if the go there.

  • One of the more established bands of convicts on the planet was (I think??) represented by a black hand??

  • As the group organizes (our main protagonist ends up being a sort of sheriff type ... maybe because he ends up with a gun when most everyone else doesn't have one?), they end up having a trial because one man is accused of raping another. Our protagonist decides there will be a jury trial and the jury is randomly chosen via black and white rocks.

  • One of the other prisoners is a political prisoner who helps advise the protagonist on how to best build a legal system.

  • Most of the characters, as prisoners, distrusted 'government' as they'd been screwed in various ways by it.

  • I don't believe the protagonist was one of the 'convicted for a crime he didn't commit' I believe he was a murderer.

As you can tell, it was one of those 'how to build a better civilization' type novels and I think it was published sometime in the 1980s, probably during the popularity of the 80s military sci fi boom. I thought it was by Harry Turtledove but I can't find it. There was, I think, a less well known/small press sequel with something like 'kill all the lawyers' in the title or subtitle. Novel might have had a red or orange themed cover in its first printing.


1 Answer 1


This is Infinity Hold by Barry B. Longyear.

They named the planet Tartaros after the deepest of Hell's hells. This is the story of a man and murderer, Bando Nicos, who was condemned to Tartaros and became the planet's first police officer.

Note that this was one of a series of books, the second of which was called Kill All The Lawyers

  • Oh - yes! Thank you, that's it!
    – x-tricks
    Commented Feb 8, 2020 at 19:47

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