May 2012 SF BotM: Helliconia Spring by Brian Aldiss

Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Hobbit, Apr 30, 2012.

  1. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    This month's SF Book in the Book Club is Helliconia Spring, the first novel in the Helliconia trilogy, first published in 1982:

    [​IMG]

    Here's what i said when I reviewed the Trilogy in 2011:

    Discuss!

    Mark
     
  2. reddir

    reddir New Member

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    Hi all, I am new here. Are there guidelines for the discussion? Let me know if I overstep any bounds.

    ------

    I got the book today at the local Half Price Books store...$1.79!!! I couldn't believe it. Its a 1984 paperback edition, and looks nearly new :)

    -----

    I just finished the first part of the Prologue.

    I liked the way the book started, very atmospheric ;) (sorry, couldn't resist). It really got me into the setting and gave me a good idea of character-types.

    So far, I've had two problems, which might be related. 1) The boy is given two different ages. 2) He seems more clever that one might expect on his way to the settlement, given how he starts out.

    For those who have read the book/series, are these mistakes, or do they point toward something relevant to the plot/setting?
     
  3. miahskeeper

    miahskeeper New Member

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    Read this many years ago. Found it enjoyable but when I treied to move to the next book in the series I got bogged down and never finished. Might have to pick it up again.
     
  4. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    It's one of my all time favorite epics, especially the first volume. I would say if you read it for the characters, you will probably be dissapointed. Helliconia Spring covers three or four generations, and the focus is not so much on individuals, but on the world waking up after a centuries long Ice Age. I was hooked right from the prologue with the massive migration of beasts crazened by a tiny parasite.

    I've first read this in 1990, and at the time I was more interested in SF than in fantasy, so one thing that bothered me was the whole ancestor angle, obsidian ghosts communicating with the living. It felt out of place beside all the scientific details about binary suns, and biodiversity and climatic adaptations.
     
  5. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Well done for joining in, reddir.

    Good point, but nothing here is a mistake.

    Have to remember that the year is much longer than Earth's. According to Wikipedia, Helliconia has a very long year (called The Great Year), equivalent to some 2500 Earth years. A Helliconia day is 480 Earth days.

    Consequently a twelve 'year' old on Helliconia is the equivalent of 30 000 on Earth! (It doesn't happen....)

    So yes, it is why they might seem mature for their ages. They also have a skill set that would suggest a formal education is less important than the skills attained through experience.

    Mark
     
  6. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Month™

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    Phew - Helliconia..

    I read this a year or two ago and really struggled to finish it. I only continued with it (after putting it down one third of the way in due to boredom with the awful characters and the whole, overblown situation) out of respect for a writer I usually love. I couldn't imagine reading the other two volumes.

    Perhaps I should expand a little on why I disliked it. I was intrigued by the idea of the story of a planet waking up after an ice age and the scale of the situation should have carried the story along. But instead Aldiss chose to get bogged down in a fantasy tale about a medieval village and its very Earthlike inhabitants. I can remember that when the plot shifted focus from this rather predictable group of wizards and no-hopers, things would get more interesting but not for long enough.

    Great covers though!
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2012
  7. reddir

    reddir New Member

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    Ok, that explains it. The first age given is 7 yrs, then a few pages later 9 yrs. From what you wrote, 7 Helliconian days is equiv to 9.3 Earth years. And I can imagine a 9yr old being clever.

    -------------------------------------------

    I've read another ~25 pages, to where Yuli is "becoming professional" at his job.

    I'm really liking the contrast between outside and inside. I'm sure others have written about this before, but its my first time seeing it in the context of a character's experience.
     
  8. reddir

    reddir New Member

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    Do you remember an older Sci-Fi story, the title was something like Nightfall? It was about a civilization that was facing darkness for the first time, and mentioned those who were planning to keep things going through the expected resultant collapse of society. I see the start of this novel as the end-point of the kind of thing that was started in Nightfall.
     
  9. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Month™

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    Hi Red, yes I know Nightfall by Asimov (also made into a novella by someone else, I think) but I can't see the connection with Helliconia. Then again, it's been a few years since I read either so you could be on to something ;)
     
  10. reddir

    reddir New Member

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    For me, I liked playing with the thought of how things developed for those who'd made the preparations.

    I don't remember how long the darkness was expected to last (very brief I think). But if one extends the concept for several thousand years, Helliconia's Pannoval might be one result.
     
  11. DDCOrange

    DDCOrange Registered User

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    I've read the series a very long time ago really enjoyed it. It had lots of original elements to it. Not only the cultures, conflicts and biology of the sentient species on Helliconia but also the human space station at the end of a very long teather back to Earth and how they deal with their situation.
    An excellent choice, highly recommended!
     
  12. krisbslick

    krisbslick Executor

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    just started it... not exactly what I was expecting (I didn't really know what to expect) but I'm enjoying it so far!
     
  13. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    OK: thanks for joining in!

    To be honest, kris, I suspect that the less you know about it, at least to start with, the better.

    Just be prepared for the slow pace, at least to begin with.

    Mark
     
  14. krisbslick

    krisbslick Executor

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    just finished. and damn... i think i got the bone fever, because that was sick!

    only thing was the ending seemed rushed and ended abruptly.. i guess that's what the sequels are for!
     
  15. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Nice one, Kris: pleased you liked it.

    What did you like best/worst?

    Mark
     
  16. krisbslick

    krisbslick Executor

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    I loved the world Aldiss created, it gave so much room for my imagination to play.

    the characterization I'd say was the weakest aspect of the novel if I had to pick out something.. I wanted to root for Laintal Ay but nothing really hooked me... really wanted him to take charge and
    somehow kill the phagors at the end

    enjoyed the world immensely

    PS
    What the hell happened at fish lake ??? why did all the phagors freeze?? what was the real reason? I guess i must of missed it!

    -Kris
     
  17. Hobbit

    Hobbit Administrator Staff Member

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    Yes: I'd agree with that, although I later realised (on re-reading many years later) that that detached nature allows it to be 'a planetary romance', rather in the style of HG Wells, where the characters rather play second fiddle (at least in part) to the actions and changes on the planet itself. The planet itself is a character and the reader revels in its appearance and changes.

    Didn't get that first time: but as Brian is (still, I think) vice-president of the HG Wells Society, perhaps I should've.

    Mark
     
  18. Queso

    Queso New Member

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    I've just bought this on Kindle edition after reading it for the first time nearly 25 years ago. Have to say I'm enjoying it and understanding it much more this time around.

    The clue is in Aldiss's description. Fish Lake is mirror like, not a ripple. The water is already several degrees below zero, but there isn't enough energy in the lake for small ice crystals to form and join together to freeze it. Water can exist in this state, but it's really unstable. When the phagors jump in the small ice crystals suddenly have something to form around, at which point the entire body of water suddenly crystalises into more stable ice. It's called super-cooling. My guess is that Aldiss used it to illustrate how science is being interpreted as magic, because of everything the Oldorandans have forgotten during the winter.

    BTW, first post here. Yay me!! :D
     
  19. algernoninc

    algernoninc Now I'm an axolotl

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    good point queso. Aldiss mentions in some other parts of the series how science may appear as magic to the uninformed observer. Glad you like it, I also discovered Helliconia in 1990, I think.
     
  20. Ropie

    Ropie Member of the Month™

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    This was probably the best part in the book, I thought.