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Helliconia Trilogy Hardcover – May 1985

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Atheneum (May 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689115660
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689115660
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.2 x 9.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 Kg

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Amazon.com: 27 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A masterpiece of science fiction May 25 2010
By A. Whitehead - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Yuli is a child of a hunter-gatherer family living under the light of two suns on the northern plains of Campannlat on the frigid, ice-wrapped planet of Helliconia. When his father is enslaved by the vicious phagors, Yuli is left alone. He finds his way to the subterranean city of Pannoval, where he prospers as a member of the priesthood. Tiring of torturing heretics and punishing renegades, he elects to flee the oppressive city with some like-minded allies, eventually founding the settlement of Oldorando some distance away.

Fifty years later, Yuli's descendants have conquered a larger town, renaming it Oldorando as well, and are prospering. Game is becoming more plentiful, the river is thawing and warmer winds are rising, even as the smaller sun, Freyr, grows larger in the sky. But with peace and plenty comes indolence and corruption, and the people of Oldorando find themselves bickering and feuding for power, even as a great crusade of phagors leaves their icy homes in the eastern mountains on a quest to slaughter as many humans as possible.

The great drama of life on Helliconia is observed from an orbiting Earth space station, the Avernus, the crew of which watch as Helliconia and its sun, Batalix, draw closer to the great white supergiant about which they revolve and the centuries-long winter comes to a violent end.

Helliconia Spring (originally published in 1982) is the first volume in Brian Aldiss' masterpiece, The Helliconia Trilogy. In this work, Aldiss has constructed the supreme achievement of science fiction worldbuilding: Helliconia, a planet located in a binary star system a thousand light-years distant from Earth. Batalix and Helliconia take 2,592 years to orbit Freyr in a highly elliptical orbit (Helliconia is three times further from Freyr at its most distant point than nearest), which results in seasons that last for centuries apiece. Helliconia's plants, animal and sentient lifeforms have all biologically adapted to this unusual arrangement (in a manner that prevents colonisation by Earthlings, who would be killed quickly by the planet's bacteria), but its civilisations have not adapted satisfactorily: humanity rises in the spring and becomes dominant in the summer before being toppled by the phagors in the autumn and enslaved in the winter. However, more evidence has survived of the previous cycle than normal, and this time around those humans who have discovered the truth have vowed to ensure that humanity will survive the next Great Winter triumphant over its ancestral enemy.

Helliconia Spring is a complex novel working on a literal storytelling level - the factional battles for control over Oldorando and Pannoval, the phagor crusade flooding across the continent and the search for truth and understanding of the Helliconian star system by Oldorando's scientists - and also on thematic ones, with Aldiss examining the struggles between religion and science, between those who thrive in peace and those who thrive in war and the duality of winter and summer, humanity and phagor, and though the religious ritual of pauk, between the living and the dead.

Having the orbital Earth platform is a good idea, as it gives us a literal scientific understanding of the Helliconia system which those on the surface are struggling to understand, even if it does feel a little removed from the storyline at this time. Amongst other criticisms are a lack of character closure: whilst the grand history of Helliconia and the thematic elements continue to be explored in Helliconia Summer, the story itself moves on several hundred years, leaving the main characters of this book long dead. But these are outweighed by the strengths: the effective and impressive prose, the fantastic descriptions of a near-frozen planet thawing into life with its millions of species of plant and animal life waking up under the two suns and the impressive melding of cold, impersonal scientific worldbuilding with a satisfying plot and vividly-described characters.

Helliconia Spring (*****) is a masterpiece of science fiction and features the single most impressive work of SF worldbuilding to date. The novel is available now in the USA. A new omnibus edition of the entire trilogy will be published by Gollancz as part of the SF Masterworks collection on 12 August 2010.
33 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Frank Herbert eat your heart out Feb. 19 1999
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The fact that this series is not in print is almost criminal, probably because Aldiss is British or something. But for those who haven't heard of perhaps the greatest science-fiction series ever to be written, the Heliconnia series was Aldiss' attempt at a world building on the scale of Dune, but at the same time using it to make a commentary on his feelings about current society. Lofty goals but the beauty of it is that it never feels like he's overextending himself, everything feels natural and the book never deviates from Aldiss' calm, almost Arthur Clarke like narration, though his use of metaphor is much better than the more hard science oriented Clarke. For those coming in late, Aldiss envisioned Heliconnia as a Earth like planet with one big difference, really really really long seasons. The planet takes about 2500 years to orbit so each generation effectively notices only one season. In the first book he shows the end of winter and the reawakening of civilization, a cycle that has gone by many times without anyone realizing it. In the beginning the book is almost standard Tolkein stuff, fantasy but just when you think that Aldiss has gone into sword and sorcery, it throws in a bit with Earth having set up an orbiting space station to watch the planet, reminding you that above all this is a science-fiction story. If you can find even one book of this series used, snap it up as fast as you can, or just swamp a publisher with requests to put it back into print. Like Moorcock's Cornelius series, this is one that deserves to be out there for everyone to read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
a world I can almost live in May 18 2000
By Dave Luke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Helliconia is a place I can almost SEE through the pages in my book. You begin to genuinely feel for the characters, as the storyline unfolds, we watch the main characters from above, often they lived hundreds of years apart: the Spring with makind living underground worshipping a mountain god & praying for the return of Freyr (the second sun) Summer & the emergence of Mankind's nations across the globe; the slow sink of mankind into barbarism in Winter as helliconia slides into another 500 year long freeze. The most complete & absorbing series of books I have ever read. It MUST return to print...please. A true classic to rival Tolkien and surpasses the Mars books by Kim Stanley Robinson
31 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Not the Epic That It Thinks It Is Jan. 23 2003
By doomsdayer520 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In this first book of the Helliconia trilogy, Brian Aldiss has created what appears to be a Dune-like epic taking place over many centuries. It certainly is a creative concept. - an Earth-like world with a long orbit in a binary star system, with an extremely long revolution and seasons that last for centuries. Here the "people" of Helliconia have lived a hard life in winter conditions, much like the Neanderthals or Eskimos, and believed that the world had always been that way. But springtime slowly begins in this book, and the people become more cultured and learned with the easier life, but also less healthy and vigilant. This obviously represents the transition in the real world from hunting and gathering to agriculture, or from the dark ages to the renaissance.
These grand concepts are definitely robust, but at the more immediate levels of plotline and character development, Aldiss delivers little more than a very typical fantasy/adventure yarn with a little bit of sci-fi mixed in. There are some creative settings and weird features like animals that are born by eating their way out of their parents, and trees that grow underground during the winter then literally explode into the spring. But these are undermined by a very predictable tale of epic journeys, strange creatures, and complex but courageous leaders, straight from a million fantasy novels. Also Aldiss has a very - shall we say - "outdated" conception of the female characters. The worst aspect of this novel is something that really looks like a tacked-on afterthought. It turns out that Helliconia is being observed by a team of Earth scientists who ludicrously have been hanging around the planet for centuries and making very quiet analyses of this primitive world. This seems like merely a convenient way for Aldiss to provide a detached narrator to the story, and the Earth scientists' presence is hard to take seriously. This first book ends predictably with little to make you running to the following books in the trilogy. The Helliconia tale tries to be a vast epic but turns out to be small in scope.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
A great idea, a good commentary, but an average story. Aug. 8 2003
By neoninfusion - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I finally bought this trilogy second-hand (as it is no longer in print in Australia) after noticing the enticing cover art of the 80's versions many times in used book stores. Have you heard the saying "don't judge a book by it's cover"? It applies here.
The general premise of the trilogy is interesting - Helliconia, a distant planet circling a binary star sytem is discovered by Earth-humans who set up a satellite space station to observe the day to day life of Helliconia's 'human' and Phagor inhabitants. The lifestyle of the Helliconian's is determined by the season in which their generation lives in, and the trilogy begins at the end of a 3000 year winter, where Phagors are dominant and humans subjective to them.
Despite this unique idea, the trilogy falls down in story-telling. The plot for "Spring" is weak, but improves in "Summer" and "Winter", and the characterisation is average - especially the female characters. Having said this, there is some thought-provoking commentary on our nature: in particular, sociology; conservation; religion; and warfare.
The Helliconia Trilogy has been compared to Dune by other reviewers, but I think this is unfair on Aldiss. The purpose of the series is not just to create a new world, but to provide us with an insight into human nature by comparing us to our contempories on this new world (which is not Frank Herbert's purpose in Dune). Accept each book for what it is.
Do I recommend the trilogy? Probably not. Why? I was hurrying to get through it. I found the commentary a bit trying towards the end of each book (it also interrupted the flow of the story) and so I started skipping through it without thinking, endeavouring to continue with the storyline - which wasn't very impressive.

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