Series: Helliconia 1
Reviewed date: 2003 May 31
Brian Aldiss has, in my regard, attempted more than he is able. Helliconia Spring tries to be a grand epic in the tradition of Dune, but Aldiss is clearly less skilled than Frank Herbert. While he has an interesting concept, Aldiss's attempt to show the grandeur and epic proportions of the Helliconian experience get in the way of simple storytelling, with the result being that it is nearly halfway through the book before strong characters emerge; a coherent story line never fully materializes.
The premise of Helliconia Spring is climate change: the world of Helliconia exists in a binary star system in which it takes millennia for the secondary star to complete its elliptical orbit about the primary star. As the cold secondary star Batalix approaches the hot primary star Freyr, the world of Helliconia--which orbits Batalix--emerges from an ice age. The primitive humans of Helliconia must adapt and change with the shifting climates. In addition, they must deal with the constant threat of the phagors, the other sentient species of Helliconia.
Aldiss paints a mesmerizing picture of life on Helliconia, and his ideas are fresh and interesting. His grasp of plot, however, seems thin; his characterization at times amateur.
Helliconia Spring is the first part of a trilogy. I found it enjoyable enough that I plan on reading the other two books if I happen to run across them at a used bookstore. But I won't be buying them new.