Migrants and Myths (Posted on Amazon, March 1, 2012)
By Charles Ashton, Author of Dragon Fire Trilogy
The strengths of this story are in its themes. More “future” fiction than science fiction, we are plunged into a northern Britain some decades down the line that is only too believable should the predictions of scientists about global warming prove correct. The first major theme, then, is the growing problem of “climate refugees”, due to the social tensions arising from their presence and their increasing numbers. While many of these people are hard-working and simply want to be left to get on with their lives, there are others who are traumatised, desperate, and many of them in no mood to be continually moved along by an increasingly unwelcoming indigenous population. When I come to think of it, there’s no need to look at this as specifically “future fiction.”
The other theme, parallel to the first but also growing out of it, is the occurrence of what may be seen either as a new evolutionary step within the human race or as the emergence of an entirely new humanoid species. This I suppose places Gaia’s Children within the realm of science fiction, though once again one may speculate on whether current environmental factors – digital technology not least among them – may in fact already be producing what could be viewed as solid evolutionary changes in thinking and speech and behaviour among the younger generation. I think it would be a fair guess that Paul Kieniewicz leans towards a (neo-)Lamarckian rather than a (neo-)Darwinian view of evolution – at any rate the new species/mutation has been getting itself born at a bit of a gallop, with its first generation appearing over a wide geographical area rather than stemming from a single individual; as a result of this the “Lupans”, Gaia’s Children, are provoking some rather extreme reactions among “old” humanity as they run about naked and refuse to speak proper English, or indeed proper anything. In as far as the majority of the Lupans are born to climate refugee women, one can see how the two main themes interweave.
James Lovelock’s “Gaia” hypothesis posited Planet Earth as a living system, a parallel of the system we understand as the Human Body. Global Warming then came to be viewed as a similar reaction, on the part of Planet Earth, to our own bodies’ reaction to a virus – ie heating up the blood in order to produce antibodies in appropriate numbers to destroy the threat posed by the virus. The virus in the case of Global Warming is, of course, the Earth’s unbalanced human population. One wonders exactly how this thinking applies to the Lupans of Gaia’s Children, who in Darwinian terms one would expect to supplant the human race, whereas they in fact embody the human race’s one hope in face of almost certain extinction due to Gaia’s trump card, an incurable plague. This anomaly, which forms a central dilemma of the story, remains unresolved – perhaps material for a sequel?
Superimposed on these two respectably Science Fictional themes is a third which to my mind goes into the realms of Fantasy. Good though this strand is, to be honest, I’m not quite sure what it’s doing here in this story, though certainly as a symbolical gesture you can see how it slots into the thematic material. A reminder that there have been large-scale migrations, leading to severe social disruptions, in the past, is one thing; people from the distant past reincarnating in order to do things better the next time round – that’s solid enough fantasy material (it may even be true to life, for all I know), but I have a little difficulty assimilating it in this particular story. Does this muddy the waters of the clear sci-fi thinking, or does it add an extra dimension to the tale – of myth, of the mystical? That’s a question on which readers will have to come to their own decision. There certainly seems to be an extra mythical dimension when it comes to the Lupans, whose original generation is not only traced to a distinctly otherworldly-sounding progenitor, but also shows a marked predilection for wolf’s milk and a marked affinity with those erstwhile hunting-companions of the human race. While this isn’t something entirely unknown in the annals of recorded history, its purpose in the story does seem to point up a mythical rationale for the story as a whole: the Lupans represent not only the right way for the relationship of humanity and nature to progress, but an attempt on the part of human progeny to put right the things it got wrong before – indeed the very things which, in the long run, gave rise to the global crisis we are facing now.
Gaia’s Children is never less than interesting, is always thoughtful and possibly profound, and has many elements which make it a gripping read. For my part I find the way it treats the idea of a possible evolutionary leap within the human race credible, and while the detail of this idea may be presented mythically and symbolically, this doesn’t detract from the power of the argument that “we” – ie homo sapiens – may not be the high end of the evolutionary line; and what would happen if a new, mutated, generation came along with goals, and indeed values, that seemed directly opposed to our own?
GAIA’S CHILDREN Review by Phillippa Rees, author of A Shadow in Yukatan
Posted on Goodreads, April 1, 2012
This is a deeply philosophical work but the philosophy is worn very lightly, and well camouflaged within a plot that wholly engages on its own terms.
It would be tempting for the genre fundis * to call this science fiction, but as this work itself reveals what was fiction once is fiction no longer.
Readers reviews posted on Amazon