Helliconia Spring by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book is ambitious, having a great premise, and Aldiss obviously put a lot of effort into it. I've read his Trillion Year Spree which was basically an master-class overview of SF in general, so I appreciate what he's done here a bit more than I would have coming in cold.
So what is it? This huge, sprawling, many year epic of Helliconia?
Loooong seasons, very much in the same tune as the later-written GRRM books -- even including his contemporary SF with the same concept, Dying of the Light -- but Aldis takes it a bit further. He explores a vast human culture growing on an alien world that is rising out of its long winter slumber.
I want to love everything about it more than I do. Indeed, if I had read it when I was much younger, I probably would have been knocked over by it. The amount of worldbuilding is amazing, the nordic feel engaging, the alien beasties reminding me a lot of Pern without the OTT aspects, and exploration of cultural and intellectual shift really got me going.
So what didn't I love?
Mostly the characters and the somewhat lacking plot. It's great in concept but not nearly as engaging as I would have loved. GRRM really put a pin the characters, for example. Aldis obviously had a lot going for himself and I will definitely give this the props it deserves, but it will never be one of those life-changing books, alas. Still amazing, however, with tons of effort and worldbuilding. I just wish... yes, well, I wish it was more.
I'll be continuing on, however, with the trilogy. This is the rise, after all. I'll want to see the human culture hit its summer... and then return to winter.
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