Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Helliconia Summer by Brian Aldiss (1983)

I recently read the second book of Brian Aldiss's Helliconia trilogy, Helliconia Summer. You should read my review of the first book to get a description of the setting.

Aside from being set on the same planet, the setting and story in this book have very little to do with the first one. It takes place hundreds of years later, and the setting has been completely transformed by the different weather on the planet. The general writing, characterization, and descriptions are just as compelling as in the first one, which is very strongly in its favor. However, it falls far short of the first one for many reasons.

The book starts out strong--but it starts out 2/3 of the way through the story. This would be fine, if it was only one chapter. But instead, there are three chapters before it jumps back in time, and the fourth chapter is presented as a flashback. So, when I started the fifth chapter, I thought it jumped back forward; I was wrong, so needless to say I was confused for the next couple of chapters.

The setting is not nearly as compelling as in Spring, the supposedly extreme heat of the long season being almost forgotten through most of the book. And one of the reasons Spring was so interesting was that the setting changed a great deal during the story, something that doesn't happen in Summer.

After I finally figured out what was happening, things go interesting for a while. But just when it got really good, some deus ex machina rears its ugly head. And finally, the end is unsatisfying.

The Verdict: Still, the story which is told is a good one, and, as I said, the characters are compelling. So, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

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