Tuesday, October 05, 2010

44. Syzygy by Michael G. Coney

I'm proud of finding this little book. I picked it up in Winnipeg two years ago (tempus fugit!) based solely on the neat cover, British heritage and publication date (1972). I was not disappointed. It takes place on a human colony that is mostly made up of water. I really enjoyed the setting, because the science fiction in it is subtle, it could almost be Australia, if it were settled in the 70s. The issues are more about how the settlers have adjusted to the new world after two generations, the conflicts between the people at the regions and the distant administrative center. The protagonist is a marine scientist who works at the local research station. There is a slight divide between the people from the station and the locals, whose economy is mostly based on fishing. Every 52 years, the six moons of the planet align and weird things happen. What actually happened the last time is mostly lost in history, but there were tales of people losing control, riots and murders. The human behaviour is somehow connected to the biology of the planet and the book is the story of the hero and others figuring this out while they also slowly deal with their own crazed behaviour. I don't want to give away too much, but it has to do with a slow awakening of a telepathy that allows one to feel the emotions and thoughts of others. The problem is that you don't realize you are reading their thoughts and their hidden feelings, especially their negative ones, come out to you so directly, you think you are hearing them. And it gets worse from there.

What made the book enjoyable for me is that the characters are all very well portrayed and you get a great sense of this claustrophobic community and how easily it could all go really ugly if everybody's worst thoughts were revealed and amplified. It does have a particularly 70s British pessimism to it that I love reading about but don't necessarily adhere to myself.

The internet tells me that Syzygy is an astronomical term referring to the alignment of three or more celestial bodies. It also tells me that Michael Coney was quite prolific and lived in Victoria, B.C. until his death in 2005. That means we were in the same town for 4 years! I'll keep an eye out for other works by him.

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