CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 22. . . .June 26, 2009
Of Wind and Sand.
Sylvie Bérard. Translated by Sheryl Curtis.
Calgary, AB: Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy, 2009.
306 pp., pbk., $19.95.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
I pointed an accusing finger at him. "So tell me, did the darztl in the story have a clear conscience when he threw his captive into the hell she had escaped from? What a wonderful way to send her back to her own kind! And he didn't do it out of any political conviction or through loyalty to his own species. Not him! But just because he was afraid to stand up, because he was ashamed of his allegiances!"
He stood up painfully, using his atrophied arms, and leaned against a stone. He closed his eyes and stopped moving. One of his wounds had closed, his limbs regenerated extremely slowly, and were weaker than those I had cut. I chased away a fleeting wisp of remorse that was wandering about my mind and chose to ruminate on my disgust.
Of Wind and Sand is an English translation of an award-winning French-Canadian science fiction novel. The plot revolves around a colonizing spaceship from Earth that makes an emergency landing on a distant hostile planet inhabited by a race of intelligent lizards, the darztl. When the colonists discover they cannot leave, they name the planet Mars 11 and begin to terraform the planet. This action has a serious effect on their relationship with the local natives. A 306 page trade paperback, the volume consists of a three page Prologue, ten chapters or sections covering 298 pages, a two page Epilogue and a single page Timeline. The end of the book includes five pages of additional titles by this publisher.
The story covers a period of about one hundred years. The planet is mainly a hot desert, inhospitable to human life but comfortable for the darztl. The humans settle in the polar regions and are unable to survive for long in the heat of the desert that the lizards enjoy. When it appears the humans intend to leave once their ship is repaired, the natives try to be helpful. The situation quickly deteriorates once it seems the humans are planning to stay.
The tale is told through several points of view, both human and darztl. Readers follow the lives of several different characters. There are serious misunderstandings on both sides. The relationship breaks down to the point where the darztl use human slave labour, and some humans use the lizards as a food source, with the darztl's limbs regenerating when cut off. The titles of the various sections give some idea of the flow of the story: The Human Problem, A Time for War, The Darztl, Enemy Fire, Terraforming 101, The Worst of Both Worlds, The Human Code, Rock and Fury, Her Right Arm, and Desert Soul. Some parallels may be drawn with moral situations that occurred on Earth in historic times. The questions are raised: "Who is in the right?" and what does it mean to be "master" and "slave?"
The two cultures descend into extreme violence while certain enlightened members of both races struggle to gain an understanding and a solution to an almost unthinkable situation. The story peers deep into the thoughts and actions of the characters and, in many cases, the motivations for the characters' often very harsh actions. The book contains frequent graphic episodes of castration, rape and torture.
Well-written, the story will appear to the reader of science fiction as well as students of history, colonialism, and race relations. A gripping tale of the shock and misunderstandings arising when two very different cultures clash.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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