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Author Topic:   Windhaven
Alien Investor

Posts: 397
From: New York City
Registered: Jan 2000

posted July 04, 2002 12:21     Click Here to See the Profile for Alien Investor   Click Here to Email Alien Investor     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle

Windhaven is an isolated planet which is almost all ocean with a few clusters of islands. The planet is resource-poor and, in particular, metal poor. The inhabitants are descendants of a failed starship colony. They live at a medieval level of technology, with no magic or supernatural influences.

The inhabitants did salvage all of the metal from their original starship, including the solar sail. The sail is light, thin, and strong. In the lower gravity and high winds of Windhaven, the sail material makes wings, and human beings can fly. The flyers, naturally, have formed a guild, with their own laws and traditions and legends and so on.

The book is composed of three novellas with a prologue and an epilogue. The novellas were originally written and published independently. If you are expecting to read a single novel, this is disconcerting, because all the action and tension of each section is resolved at the end of that section, and then the next section starts 20 years later with a different plot. But I like this form of story-telling because I get several stories to think about, not just one idea that the author puffs out for 300 pages.

The first novella is about Maris, the adopted daughter of a Flyer who wants to fly, is a good flyer, but is not of the Flyer caste. It's a very straightforward "reformation of tradition" story. It's got all the classic ingredients: beautiful adventure (Maris flying), the story of Maris herself coming of age, family and friends who support her, tradition-bound old farts who oppose her, and a big Council meeting where Maris appeals for the right to fly.

The second novella, "One-Wing", was my favorite. After Maris wins her wings in the first novella (hey, do the tradition-bound old farts ever WIN in these kinds of stories?), the whole structure of Flyer society changes, and Maris has to live with the changes she's brought about. There are consequences, and some of them are bad, and Maris and others have to deal with them. I found this novella a little deeper than the first one. In particular, there are people on all sides of issues who are right about some things and wrong about others. Plus the flying scenes were just as beautiful and more suspenseful.

The third novella, "The Fall", struck me as heavy-handed. In this novella, the bad guy is stupid and weak. He needs to spend some more time at Evil Overlord school. The good guys are a bit too self-righteous. One critical scene reminded me of Tom Lehrer's "Folk Song Army".

On the downside, the social background of Windhaven is simplistic and pat and mushy. Often the whole world revolves around Maris and what she wants, as the other characters sit around waiting for her to tell them how they should be. The Flyers themselves also seem way too important: they can't carry a lot of cargo, and there are plenty of ships in the world, but somehow, any island that falls into the bad graces of the Flyers is going to wither and die.

Most irritating to me, these people are the descendants of space colonists, but almost the whole population of Windhaven seems content to live in a static medieval backwater, both technologically and socially.

Overall, though, these things are just part of the background of the story. The story-telling is interesting, the characters are interesting (although a bit shallow), the flying is beautiful, and the world is interesting. It's a nice way to spend a curled-up book-reading evening.

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