Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Review: Eyas

Book Review: 'Eyas' by Crawford Killian

4 / 5 Stars
‘Eyas’ (354 pp) first was published in August 1982 by Bantam Books; the cover artist is uncredited. The Del Rey Books version (357 pp) was released in March, 1989 and features a fine cover illustration by Steve Hickman.

The novel is set some 10 million years into the future. While California has fallen into the Pacific, the rest of the continent of North America remains intact. Man shares the continent with mutant humanoids; the centaurs live in the Midwest, while the lotors, a race descended from weasels, occupy the southern regions. A race of flying humanoids, called the Windwalkers, live on floating islands of vegetation supported by giant pea-pods filled with helium, and sail the wind currents around the world.

The opening chapters of ‘Eyas’ take place in what was British Columbia, where the ‘People’, the descendents of the Chinooks, continue to live a simple but fulfilling life centered on fishing and hunter-gathering. During the yearly gathering of the tribes, the small fishing vessel of Darkhair Fisher, a stalwart member of the tribe of the village of Longstrand, ventures into the mouth of the inland sea where it empties into the Pacific, and comes upon a large sailing vessel – a type of ship never before seen by the People.

As Fisher looks on, the sailing ship wrecks upon the rocks; after much effort, only three people are saved from its complement: the young boys Brighteyes and Eyas, and the young woman Silken. It is revealed that the ship and crew originated from the nation of Sun, far to the East, in what is nowadays western Texas, and was in desperate flight from another Sunnish vessel.

Darkhair makes a momentous decision: he will not only provide shelter to the trio of Suns, but his family will rear the boy Eyas as one of their own, while Silken elects to raise Brightspear.

As the boys mature, Darkhair comes to realize that the world of the People is much smaller and more insignificant than he has ever imagined. Far inland, the Suns make constant, merciless war on the other races of the continent, seeking new lands to sustain their ever-growing population. Brightspear is in fact the disinherited son of a Sun chieftan, and he will seek to reclaim his kingdom as an adult.

But so doing will bring him into conflict with Eyas, for he alone realizes that the advance of the Suns can only be stopped by an unprecedented alliance of Man and Mutants.

As the two men reach adulthood, the world of the People, and indeed North America, will be caught up in a war unlike any that has taken place before. And for Eyas, the key to victory will be understanding the strange artifacts of the Gods, artifacts that lie far, far above in the blue skies over the Earth……...

‘Eyas’ is a very readable novel. The conflict between the two Suns, Eyas and Brightspear, drives the narrative, and throughout much of its second half, ‘Eyas’ is really more of a military adventure with sf overtones. There is a large cast of characters, but the author shows skill in allowing them to be fully realized without overwhelming the storyline.

There are a couple of weaknesses to ‘Eyas’, and these are the reasons I couldn’t give the novel a five-star rating. One weakness is the inclusion of a subplot dealing with messages and premonitions from the dead – apparently in Hell – that are ‘beamed’ to Eyas and some of the other characters. As the plot unfolds, this metaphysical element comes to occupy more and more the narrative, and it meshes poorly with the othwerwise straightforward, realistic elements of the plot.

Another weakness has to do with the Cosmic Revelations that are hinted at early on in ‘Eyas’. In the final three chapters these Revelations make their appearance, but the sf tropes associated with them come so fast, and so glibly, that the novel’s denouement suffers as a result. 

Still, when all is said and done, ‘Eyas’ is one of the best sf novels of the early 80s; no small achievement when one remembers that sf at that time was in the doldrums, and quality short stories and novels were few and far between.

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