Discussion in 'Science Fiction' started by Werthead, May 25, 2010.
One missing link
One problem I had with this work was the lack of explanation of the Avernus and the occasional reference to what was happening on Earth. 1,000 light years is a good distance, and the number of stars within that sphere is huge.
How the station got there always made me wonder if there were others like it around different stars. In this case it is clear that Humans could not land and colonize this planet so observing was all it had. Back on Earth people seem to have settled into a equilibrium with not much change and nothing in terms of further attempts at reaching the stars. I seem to remember reading that this took place something like 8,000 years in the future, but maybe I'm misremembering.
I always thought that this work would benefit from a prequel about the very beginning of Human contact with Helliconia sort of like Anne McCaffery did with Pern. That is just me though, I am a sucker for a connected history and like to have a timeline in the back of my mind to put things in perspective.
I read the first book twice and the others only once. So while I liked the series I never got around to revisiting the whole thing.
Aldiss has said he has no wish to revisit Helliconia, unless some idea presented itself. He certainly wouldn't revisit it for commercial reasons.
Your other points are all addressed in the second and third books in the series. Humanity had a 1,200-year-long starflight period during which they built drives which could operate at about 90% of lightspeed. They also had immense telescopes which could observe smaller-than-Mars-sized planets at a range of thousands of light-years, and around all the stars within a thousand light-years they didn't find a single Earth-like planet, only rocky worlds at best like Mars or Mercury. An American-Chinese observation fleet passing through the Ophiuchus dustclouds (which obscure Freyr from Earth) 700 ly away then detected Helliconia using their own telescopes, and despatched an automated colony vessel which reached the Helliconia system and built the Avernus in orbit. With no other world in the system suitable for colonisation, they turned round and headed home leaving the Avernus and its 6,000 crewmen behind, which was a rough gig (and a storyline point in the sequels).
The books take place in the seventh and eighth millenniums AD and span a period of about 1,200-1,500 Earth years, IIRC. The trilogy starts on the cusp between winter and spring and ends with the onset of the next winter (and winter lasts much longer than the other seasons due to the shape of the orbit).
Truly a great book.
Very pleased Gollancz are republishing it.
I always loved this trilogy and thought it a little underrated. Thanks for mentioning it.
Spring is the best I think, followed by Summer. And the humanoid alien problem always niggled a bit.
Good work, Werthead!
Unfortunately these are out of print in the USA, the publisher, iBooks folded a couple of years ago. I knew I should have picked up the trilogy when I saw them all in a bookstore a few years ago.
How about a trip to the Book Depository website when the UK omnibus edition comes out in August?
That might be the plan, then.
Whatever you do, buy it!
I've been plodding through Spring since last month. Not the most gripping of Aldiss books and the writing's not up to his usual standard, but it's not bad. I get a niggling feeling of not really seeing the point of any of it though. It seems like fantasy to me anyway; why is it regarded as SF?
I only found the 'gossies' (not sure I got the term right) to be a fantasy element. Dead Spirits living in the planet core or some such? Plus Humans on Earth were able to influence them mentally somehow. This particular plot element always bothered me. Otherwise it seems all science based fiction, planet/star orbital oddity, Science station in orbit, biological explanations for things all of this is standard fare for SF.
Helliconia was OK, but no more than that for me. I only read Spring and Winter once, never had the desire to revisit them.
He definitely was in 'New Age' mode when he thought that one up. I always took it as part of the "life is intertwined" theme that pervades the books.
Afraid I had to give up on this one. I quite enjoyed the first fifty pages or so with the initial adventures through the city in the mountains - as usual Aldiss is fantastic at creating an unsettling world.
Since the 'contemporary' part of the story began though, it has been about as interesting as a telephone directory. All the characters are interchangeable and they have the most stupid names and, despite the protracted timeline as we follow the seasonal change, very little happens apart from the odd fight or flounce. The only interesting part of the plot, and the only SF aspect in this mundane fantasy book, is the orbiting observation craft from Earth which makes 3 short appearances in 500 pages.
I'm on a reread on this one.
When I read them 20-odd years ago, Ropie, I felt as you did. The pace is VERY slow.
But now, though they are slow, it is a majestic tour. I appreciate them much more second time around.
Perhaps that's me slowing up as well, then!
Hi Mark, yes perhaps I've been reading too much Stephen King recently and can't quite slow down to the required pace. That said, all the other Aldiss books I've ever read have been so packed full of ingenious ideas that there's hardly room to breathe in the 300-or-so pages they tend to take up.
Has anyone seen that there is a SF Masterworks omnibus version coming out later this year? That's going to be a big book...! edit - oh yes, first post of the thread has it!
Agreed: and I think that may be why I found it difficult when I first read it.
Perhaps now I 'get it' and am letting it take its time this time around. It is, as you say, more of a fantasy than SF, though the SF is there in the worldbuilding.
Yes, that's what I've got to review with. Over 1000 pages...
I might eat my words a little here - spurred on by comments here I have now almost finished the book and have found the last 150 pages to be actually quite excellent as the action breaks away from Embruddock. The SF aspect does also come more to the fore with the detailed description of the progress of the bone fever. I may even go on to read the next installment...
Funny, I saw the new Gollancz edition in Forbidden Planet the other day and it is actually the same size as one of the original trilogy. That's some condensed reading (although paper thickness has obviously been thinned down from the early 1980s)!
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