Daily Archives: September 16th, 2013

Reap the Wild Wind


I read this thanks to a recommendation from Helen Merrick, who I seem to recall being a massive Czerneda fan. I understand that this is a prequel series, written after the world in question becomes part of a wider galactic network. Not having read the later books, I can’t say how an already-fan would respond; but I imagine there are some awesome moments of filling-in-gaps. Because it is indeed a wonderful novel, and I do fully intend to go and find the rest of the trilogy, and probably the later series as well.

Told mostly from the adolescent (unChosen, in the parlance of her people) Aryl’s point of view, this is a story of a world that – as far as Aryl is concerned – is entirely static, as it should be. One of the characters comments on Aryl and her people living in an eternal ‘now’ – and although that’s not entirely fair, because their lives do revolve around the season of harvest, it does make sense because their knowledge of history and their expectations for the future are exceptionally limited. But this is not, overall, a bad thing: Aryl’s family and friends live full, rich and generally rewarding lives. Without interference – and of course you know there’s going to be interference – the Yena live.

Aryl lives on Cersi, a world that is home to three different sentient species. Aryl is of the Om’ray, human-types who live in Clans in disparate parts of the world and who rarely interact with each other except when one of the boys leaves on Passage, drawn by a woman who has become sexually mature (there’s some mental communication stuff which makes this basically make sense). The Oud and the Tikitik are not humaniform, and they are more technologically advanced than the Om’ray – they swap the Om’ray for some things in exchange for technology. The Agreement is meant to guarantee stability (if not stagnation) between the three. But then things change – strangers come. And strangers are not accommodated within the Agreement, which sets off all sorts of problems between the species, and within them as well.

There’s a lot of things going on within this book. Biological sexuality is not something that develops in Om’ray but seems to basically be on or off, which is intriguing and means that sexual tension isn’t really an issue (well, it is at one point, but it doesn’t overwhelm the whole story); issues of difference, and allowances for degrees of difference, are central to the Om’ray story and whether Aryl can be truly part of her Clan. In sweeping terms this is both a coming-of-age story, for Aryl, and also a first-contact story – and that part I think is done very well done, because it’s neither entirely positive nor entirely negative. Part of the story is told from the perspective of a boy from a different Clan, and this allows Czerneda to show the different perspectives of the Om’ray themselves, within their general similarities.

I think this counts as science fiction, because the strangers are aliens and there are issues of technology etc. It includes elements of fantasy, too, which I think work nicely within the story as a whole.

Reap the Wild Wind is well-paced, with an intriguing world and winsome POV characters. Very enjoyable.

You can get Reap the Wild Wind from Fishpond.

Essays, jellyfish, and the multiverse

A while back a colleague introduced me to Arts and Letters. This is a wonderful site that collects essays from around the web, most of them free to read, and – in my case – delivers them to my blog feed for idle consumption. There are a lot that come through that I just don’t care much about, but that’s ok; it’s easy enough to swipe them away as read. But sometimes there are some absolute joys in the mix. Some essays and some reviews that I know I would never have come across otherwise.

Tim Flannery’s “They’re taking over!” about jellyfish, for example. I remember reading a while back that Japan was having serious jellyfish issues, to the point where chefs were making serious attempts at turning them into delicacies so that the population could try and eat their way through them… or something… Anyway, this essay is actually a review of Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Oceanby Lisa-ann Gershwin – a review that outlines most of Gershwin’s points, interacts with them seriously, adds other observations, and basically makes the book part of an ongoing discussion. Which is of course what it is. It’s a great essay, although it’s a terrifying topic. Having grown up in the tropics of Australia, it took me quite a while to get over my suspicion of the ocean because, as Flannery points out, the box jelly fish is the most venomous creature on earth. Only idiots (aka tourists) go swimming in the ocean in Darwin. Meanwhile, jellyfish are taking over the oceans, and there is nothing humanity can do about it. The things are basically immortal. The apocalypse comes not from zombies but from jellyfish.

Over at Aeon, Andrew Crumey explores the idea of the multiverse through both physics and literature, showing how the former has sometimes followed the latter in positing and explaining the idea of multiple, parallel, divergent universes. Someone who references Borges and Feynman, Baudelaire and Everett in the same 2,600 words was pretty much always going to be writing an interesting essay, and that is indeed the case. The idea of the multiverse is a confronting one for a Christian, but that’s fine; it’s not like I’m not used to that. I enjoyed how Crumey meandered around ancient Greek and Roman philosophy through to 19th century literature, and tied together 20th and 21st century physics. Not being as au fait with the physics as I might like (nor, honestly, the philosophy), I can’t say whether it’s entirely trustworthy in the connections it draws – and I refuse to read the comments, because I just bet they range from ‘multiverse?? You loony!’ through to other unsavoury comments (but hey, at least it wasn’t written by a woman pretending like she understood the science, right?) – but as a keen general reader, it was certainly absorbing and persuasive.