Sunday, April 10, 2016

Review of Winter in Eden by Harry Harrison

Alternate history to the extreme, Harry Harrison’s West of Eden, first in the Eden trilogy, posited a world wherein not all dinosaurs went extinct.  An evolved bipedal species surviving the Cretaceous and gaining sentience called the yilane, the novel describes their first major interaction with humanity, and the war and violence that ensued.   More than just blood and fighting, it is clear Harrison was paving the way for a larger agenda on species relations, Otherness, war, civilization, and other major ideas surrounding the concpt of a multi-hued society.  In the second of the trilogy, Winter in Eden, those ideas begin to reveal themselves along clearer lines, even as the tension between the yilane and humans ratchets itself back up again.

Exploring new areas of the map, Winter in Eden likewise expands its points of view.  Just a side character in West of Eden, Winter begins to follow Armun, Kerrick’s wife, as she attempts to reunite with her husband.  Kerrick, meanwhile, attempts to extract what knowledge and science he can from the ruins of the yilane city razed at the end of West of Eden.  But a stronger calling eventually draws him away.  Though defeated, Vainte still lives, and in Winter in Eden her quest to destroy the vile ustouzou redoubles.  Employing means to make Hitler smile, she’s learned her lesson and aims for a methodical killing blow.  Likewise surviving the catastrophe is Enge, one of the Daughters of Light.  Her beliefs shunned by most yilane, she strikes out with a small group to create a new society, and discovers some very interesting aspects of the world in the process. 

The ball of Winter in Eden takes its time to start rolling.  The war at the end of West of Eden affecting humans and yilane alike, Harrison resolves its aftermath before sending the characters out into the world on new arcs.  These arcs occur natural to the overall storyline and add new perspectives and views, in turn bringing fresh color to the story.  There are sea voyages, new species discovered, and new alliances attempted. What hasn’t changed is the unique usage of yilane language, pace of storytelling, and imagination invested by Harrison.  Winter is, if anything, a consistent follow through that makes clear the novels are part of a larger storyline to be resolved in Return to Eden.  Even more interesting, Winter ends, not on a dramatic note, rather one which creates an intriguing question: what more is there to say in Return to Eden?

In the end, Winter of Eden is a solid continuation from West of Eden that opens wider the doors of Harrison’s larger purpose in presenting such an exotic alternate history.  Religion, technology, blind prejudice, circles of violence, confronting Other, and a variety of other fundamental human phenomena begin to show more distinct features through the seemingly unending aggression between yilane and humans.  More areas of the map exposed while characters gain new knowledge and prominence in the wider narrative, it does what a sequel should while advancing the ideological pursuit.  In other words, readers who enjoyed the first cannot be anything but satisfied by the second. 

For a more in-depth review of the novel, see MPorcius’ quality take here.

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