Who wrote this book and when?
Brit author Brian Aldiss, in 1982.

Has there been a film made from it?
No.

Who are the main characters?
Yuli – a human who finds himself in the underground city of Pannoval and part of its priesthood, despite his unbelief
Laintal Ay – One of the heirs to the Oldorando throne, considered eccentric
Shay Tal – the sorceress of Oldorando, she pursues knowledge of the past to guide them in the future
Aoz Roon – leader of Oldorando, power hungry
Oyre – Aoz Roon’s daughter, in love with Laintal Ay
Vry – slave girl, obsessed with astronomy
Kzahn Hrr-Brahl Yprt – a phagor leader wanting revenge on Oldorando and its residents

What’s it about?
This is the first third of an epic story about the rise and fall of an entire human civilization. It begins with Great Yuli (just known as Yuli at the commencement of the book). He was born in the Barriers of Helliconia, at that time in the throes of an Ice Age. His father was captured by phagors and Yuli is saved by managing to get to Pannoval – a city under a mountain.

Phagors are neanderthal-like animals. I pictured them like abominable snowmen with tusks. So…a scarier version of the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” abominable snowman. They are fitted for cold weather living and have an entirely different physiology than humans, down to their blood cells. The phagors and humans are mortal enemies – often fighting and taking slaves from the other’s ranks.

Yuli, although an oustider, finds himself a part of the priesthood and eventually becomes disillusioned. He leaves Pannoval and it is through his bloodline that the city of Oldorando is reborn – destined to become a great family of the planet of Helliconia. Meanwhile, a space station circles the planet with 5,000 earthling families studying every move the Helliconians make as they advance technologically, mentally, and socially.

Why is this book a classic?
I think the series is considered a classic because of the breadth of time it spans in Helliconia. It covers a full 3,000 years – one civilization, and one Helliconian year.

Why should I read this book?
If you want “Clan of the Cave Bear” without all the sex. 🙂

Has it won any awards?
The British Science Fiction Association Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Favorite quotes:
“You try to live as best you can. Good, good, live well, love one another, be kind. But don’t pretend that the disaster is nothing to do with you. It may have happened long ago, yet it infects every day of our lives.” p 77

Anything else?
This is the first in a trilogy which covers the rise and downfall of an entire Helliconian civilization.

Personal Thoughts:
I don’t really care for books which get you all involved with one character and then leap forward several generations and introduce you to another entirely new set. Which this book did and the next two will probably do also. However, once we got to the second set, I was very satisfied with Aldiss’ level of intimacy with his characters. His ability to add depth to the world of Helliconia was wonderful.

But sometimes I felt I was just missing something important – there seemed to be obvious foreshadowing with bone disease and all of the astronomical information, but I couldn’t really decipher what it was foreshadowing. I felt like I was supposed to understand something but wasn’t able to. I’m not sure if this was through lack of follow up on Aldiss’ part, or my own inability to look deeper into the story. Either way, it was frustrating.

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