This is a story I read at least 20 years back. I can remember a number of scenes, but frustratingly few key words that I've been able to make a meaningful search on.

Probably childrens or possibly young adult. It's longer than a short story - probably novella length.

Protagonists are boy and girl (I think siblings) attending a school on another planet. It's been settled a while, but within relatively recent memory. During the initial exploration, some eggs were found but no adult forms; two eggs were sent back to Earth for study, and a scientist on the planet experimented with the remaining two and created a race of beings that were sentient but of limited intelligence, who became servants to the humans. There was a line (paraphrased) 'Wasn't she pleased at creating [the servants]? No, she was furious - she thought she should have seen what hatched naturally!'

The servants have some form of rebellion brewing, and they use metallic (?silver) nail varnish to communicate using a code by telegraphing the sun. It's dismissed as a fashion fad by the humans.

There is a scene where the protagonists servant has used a cloth to clean something up they shouldn't have been using, and the thought process is described 'He could wash the cloth - but that would waste the [...]. He could throw the cloth away - but that would waste the cloth. So in the end he dug a hole and buried it.'

The protagonists are planning some sort of flight display during a festival, using a kind of jet-assisted take off booster. They discover the rebellion, and use the flight to thwart it somehow - I think mirrors were involved somehow, subverting the servants use of heliography.

The servants may have been called 'Gullivers', but that might be my memory inventing a name...

I don't believe it was particularly famous, and was probably read at the time I was picking up anything labelled science fiction in the library.

1 Answer 1


Excellent description. This is Dark Sun, Bright Sun (1986) by Nicholas Fisk. The planet is called Merci. I couldn't find any more description to link for you-even Amazon only lists the title, not the plot.

Cover of Dark Sun, Bright Sun

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction has this to say:

Dark Sun Bright Sun (1986) – whose young protagonists must deal with issues of Race in SF and Imperialism on a colony planet orbiting two suns (see Colonization of Other Worlds) – adroitly conceal[s] harsh realities under a smoothly amiable mask

While there is little publicly available, it is possible to borrow a copy via the Internet Archive. To flesh out the elements recalled in the question:

The children are called Dano and Valmi; the planet was settled within the last century. There were three eggs found - two sent to Earth and lost; the third hatched five (modified) embryos that gave rise to the servant race - Gulliver was the name of an individual, the species was 'Deena'.

Merci is a low-gravity world, so the children are able to fly with low power 'Vernier' jets. They initially planned to do this as part of the 'Festival of Light'. Rather than a rebellion as such, there are monsters that come out once every 73 years, when the suns are in conjunction - the Deena had been aware of this and encouraging them to attack the settlers. As they live underground, their eyes are very light sensitive, so reflectors are used to drive them away.

  • 2
    I read a lot of Fisk 30+ years ago so it would fit - thank you. Looks like Gateway are publishing some of his work over the last six months so may be able to get a copy at some point.
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 8:05
  • 1
    Wow, I don't know if I've ever found a SF book (that is at least listed in ISFDb) that has so little info available.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 12:02
  • Yes - explains why my Google-fu failed, even with the title there's nothing to show up in a search.
    – Michael
    Commented Jun 4, 2020 at 12:10

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