Saturday, April 23, 2005

Space Men in Wales: Louise Lawrence, Star Lord, (London: the Bodely Head, 1987).

Well, after all that bitching, I have an interesting book to talk about, although I do have one or two issues.

Louise Lawrence's Starlord is straightforward enough. A space ship crash lands and a family, Enid Wiliams (mother), Gywneth (daughter), Rhys (son) and Hywel Thomas (grandfather) find a survivor, a very beautiful young boy. The army is after him and they first hide him, find him a doctor, and eventually help him escape through a portal in the mountain.

A number of things had me hooked: the writing is really stylish ( a huge contrast to Morgan,) but it is the way in which it was stylish which interested me.

One of my complaints has been the degree to which so many of these books are really about a family situation. The same could be said of Star Lord but Lawrence treats the family situation the way we would expect an sf writer to treat any problem: she tells us as little as possible and leaves us to work it out. Even at the end we only think we know what the issues were--Enid's bad choice of men, possibly more than one, the last one probably violent. We aren't even sure if her children have the same father, we don't know what her father thinks about all of this, and we only have hints of what Gwyneth and Rhys think. Similarly, Gwyneth and Rhys's hopes and ambitions are only hinted at.

The effect of this is that when Lawrence introduces the supernatural in the same voice it escapes the usual coyness of this technique. I almost managed to suspend my disbelief in a mountain with sentience which was also a portal to a different land--a fairy land. Her decision to tell only minimum both imparts to the mood a sense of the sinister--both people and landscape remain reticent to the last--and allows her to get away with a combination of fantasy and sf that would usually have me ranting. Even though Enid communes with the mountain, it doesn't feel out of place with the spaceship.

What did depress me, because it was so unnecessary, is that Lawrence has the mountain power be hostile to new technology, she [the mountain] strikes (and brought down the spaceship) "because his power was not like hers". And her power is unquestionable: mysteries such as the Bermuda triangle are better not challenged. All a bit odd really and definitely a closure of the imagination not an opening out. At the end, Rhys is trapped in the mountain (or the world the other side of the portal) but the Star Lord gets home. Enid and Gwyneth move away and Enid marries the army captain she deceived. Rhys's dog sits on the hillside and refuses to move for the next ten years, fed by the villagers until she dies. This "invasion" has been momentary, its consequences entirely personal. Science cannot challenge Gaia.

Lawrence gets away with it because--unusually for these writers--she pays attention to the idea that form of language shapes the content of the novel.


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