Monday, 15 May 2017

Star Winds

Barrington J. Bayley Star Winds (1978)
This is the point at which I stumble and fly arse over tit in my mad scramble to embrace Bayley as my new favourite author that you've never heard of, the fervour of which is informed by my not really having heard of him until fairly recently. The big ideas are all here within a thoroughly well-cemented setting, either a remote mediaeval future or variant history reading as swashbuckling fantasy - which I write without the faintest idea of what a swash might be or why it should require buckling. We sail to the stars in old time galleons with sails made from a material which catches the ether like wind, the hulls of our vessels caulked so as to keep in the air; except we don't sail to the stars any more because we're running out of the stuff from which the sails are woven and it can't be made on Earth on account of how we're too close to the sun. Our hero therefore sails to Mars. No-one has been there for a couple of generations, and rumour has it that Mars is of sufficient distance from the sun as to allow for manufacture of those magic sails; and this in turn leads to a voyage further out into the depths of space in search of the philosopher's stone. All that bollocks about atoms has been proven false and we're now in a new age of alchemy, in case it wasn't already obvious.

So the ideas are great. The problem is that the book just isn't very interesting. I'm not even sure why this should be given the fantastic setting and scenarios, but it just seemed to go on for a couple of hundred pages and then stop without having really said anything. In truth, whilst technically perfectly adequate, Star Winds feels a little phoned-in, like Bayley wasn't quite sure what to do with the story once he'd got past the initial excitement of such a peculiar premise. Given the dramatically increased quota of science fiction titled with Star prefixing a second noun in the immediate wake of Star Wars, and that Star Winds reads like it really just wants to romp, I'm inclined to wonder if Bayley wasn't just trying to get a few bills paid here; which is a shame because this novel should have been amazing.

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