Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Aliens may be one of the first things that spring to mind when you hear the words “science fiction,” but being able to create convincing aliens is one of the more difficult premises a science fiction writer can confront. To succeed on this level, a balance must be reached between entities (monster and earthling) that ultimately aren’t so different at all. The writers who can pull the feat off (the David Brins or the Larry Nivens), are considered tops in the genre.
Moreover, it’s even more rare to have a solid science fiction novel ( or a series of novels) in which the entire cast and setting are in an utterly alien culture. The reason for this is that the demands for congruency between setting and population are much more rigid than in fantasy, and the characters’ behavior has to simultaneously be both different and familiar.
Thoraiya Dyer, regarded by many as Australia’s finest Sci-Fi writer, is quickly gaining world-wide attention for her Titan’s Forest series. Dyer’s story takes place on a world with trees that tower three thousand feet tall and 1,500 feet across. In this realm, there are bronze skies and purple clouds, while the inhabitants have spines along their arms and legs, with each requiring four or more people to be parents. There are also intense and bitter animosities between the residents of Canopy (the top), the Floor, and each of the regions that lie in between.
In the story, the residents are actual people, even referring to themselves as human. And many human attributes are indeed apparent – courage, cowardice, love, empathy, hatred, and fear. But differences are also there, and they are often jarring. For example, at one point in Echoes of Understorey, Imeris, the female main protagonist, is mildly irritated with her “Oldest Father” and considers urinating on him to demonstrate her displeasure. But after reflecting, she see that the act would be only demonstrate her own immaturity.
Readers will note that there is one element in Echoes of Understorey that is outside the realm of science fiction, but still congruent with the ‘reality’ of this world: some of those killed in battle come back as Gods. Some are good Gods, and some aren’t. In this installment of the story, Imeris is at war with one who is an evil God.
Echoes of Understorey is the second book in Dyer’s Titan’s Forest series, following the much-lauded Crossroads Of Canopy. Readers will quickly see that the story does not miss a beat, maintaining the same wonderful standards as its predecessor.
Bryan Zepp Jamieson was born in Ottawa, Canada and raised in London. He has lived in the Mount Shasta area since 1990, which he regards as the finest place on earth. Jamieson has spent the past 25 years as a graphic layout technician, web designer and writer, with over a thousand essays, a dozen short stories, and two novels – Ice Fall and Snow Fall – to his credit. In addition to his wife of 30-plus years, he normally lives with a dog and several cats, none of whom are impressed by him. Reach him through The Electric Review.