Monday, February 28, 2005

Bravery in the Snow: Troon Harrison, Eye of the Wolf (Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry % Whiteside, 2003)

rFirst of all, ignore the truly terrible first paragraph which is unnecessary, gives far too much away, is markwish and contains several glaring obvious grammatical mistakes.

That apart, Troon Harrison’s Eye of the Wolf is about a million times better than the first few chapters imply.

In northern Canada Chandra lives in a village hemmed in by ice and snow. The Ice Age has come and Canada and other northern latitudes are dependent on food Aid.

Chandra’s mother—once an artist—makes a living as the Food Distributor. Chandra is an animal keeper apprentice, helping with the breeding programme to maintain the caribou. Chandra herself is training to join the Spirit Walkers, a First Nations type spirit group which seems to specialise in Martial Arts. This was one reason why I was slightly dreading this book.

Then Chandra’s mother is kidnapped south, to pain murals for an eminent member of a Southern government and Chandra heads in search. From here on in Harrison does a really excellent job of showing what it is like for an illegal immigrant—demonstrating the degree to which it is the illegality that creates the network of criminality around immigration. Once in the south Chandra is assisted by Canadian refugees, who are themselves having a very hard time of it. In helping Chandra they risk everything.

Chandra finds her mother but overhears a plan to “eliminate” 92% of the Northern population. She makes the decision to leave her mother behind and try to get back to the North. With the help of her refugee friends she finds the bio-father she never met at a methane station, and he helps her to reach the Canadian corporate government although by the time she does, the deaths have begun—a mystery virus which Chandra has worked out is passed in the food.

[maybe I’m wrong but that bit sounded bizarre—a virus via food?]

Chandra returns a hero.

Two value addeds; although Chandra’s mother is white with red hair, her father is First Nations. And this seems to be a poly community in which there are bio fathers, sugar-friends and promise fathers of whom the most important and permanent are promise fathers, who promise to share in the upbringing of a child, and to take over if the mother is incapicated. Without two promise parents, women can’t get permission to have a child.

This book got so much better as it went on: its extrapolation of a retreating society worked well, it didn’t fall into the trap of so many post-disaster novels of children of becoming a Tale of Warning, and it balanced the empowerment of a child with that child’s need for adult intervention very nicely. Chandra works things out, although all the real science takes place off stage.

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