Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, January 8, 2012

1979: Parric 3 - Legion (Grant, Charles L.)

Without immediacy, the series lurches ahead... or does it? (3/5)

The first two books in the Parric series, (1) The Shadow of Alpha and (2) Ascension, were fair reads taking place with fair characters but the entire setting felt entirely urbane. An apocalyptic PlagueWind kills most of mankind in 2189 and turns the androids into killing machines (sounds like a great scenario, a little hokey yet still a little interesting) but the sense of immediacy was never present, like the end of the world was very important because there was hope. That "hope" was taken in the form of a spaceship named Alpha, which set off for a mission to the star and has yet to return. Franklin Parric in 2189 saw the Alpha as a source of hope, Orion Parric, his grandson, also saw Alpha as a source of hope in 2247, and yet again with Orion's brother Mathew in 2257 - the Alpha has a very strong symbolic nature to the Parric family but, like the lack of immediacy of the setting, there's a lack of reason behind the emotional draw to the spaceborne craft.

The reader was introduced to Orion Parric in Ascension and Orion's brother, Mathew, was mentioned in passing. In Legion, Mathew Parric takes center stage. Rear cover synopsis:
"The village had been called Town Central, where people learned to live with androids, and androids learned to live like humans [reader can refer to Charles Grant's 1979 Nebula Award winning novelette "A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn's Eye "]. It had been an experiment to bolster a dying population, and it might have worked, given the chance. But there was the Plaguewind. And there was the Dying..."

Legion takes place 68 years after The Shadow of Alpha. Still, there are androids who roam the lands and attack humans with a thirst for blood, an agenda for dismemberment. Outside the force-fielded domes are Hunters, who live off the land as the did before the Plaguewind. Town Central is recruiting nearby villages into their collective so they cab begin to understand the dire need for androids, but the Hunters remain skeptical and stand juxtaposed with Central. The death of Mathew's family in a recruitment village years ago is largely blamed on a Hunter leader named Quilly, yet Mathew has become morose, lacking any motivation for revenge. Still, ContiGov decide to send Mathew and a team out into the wilderness to confront Quilly's anti-android agenda... or just have the bugger assassinated.

Alas, things are never as simple as they seem. Somehow messages are being relayed from Central to Quilly, no facts about the killings have ever been uncovered, and the personage of Quilly remains as mysterious as the whereabouts of Alpha. There is a spy amongst Mathew's crew; is it the dwarf, the giant, the ex-Huntress, the ever present android William Dix from the time of Franklin Parric, or female confidant Marla? Whichever way subterfuge leads the pack, the destination is... umm, destined for Philayork, where Orion Parric has remained all these years under the pipe dream of Alpha's triumphant return.

Charles Grant may disappoint with the immediacy of the plot, but he doesn't let the reader down with a smattering of randomly poetic passages describing the rich, yet richly unexplored surroundings: "Her laughter matched the breeze that tugged a their hair, the sleeves of their shirts loose and billowing." (23) and "There was a moon. A grass-spiked dune. A wind that blew fresh with the storm now gone." (163) and "The air helped. It was lightly chilled, nearly brittle, kept at bay the languid temptation that heat would have promised." (181)

Grant also breaths life into his one sympathetic character, Mathew, with these passages: "It was, he thought, much like a knife-walled maze that bled him as he solved it. But once solved... the exit by no means the last door or salvation." (167) and "And in sleeping, fought to dream; and in dreaming, remembered nothing. If there were demons, he ignored them; if there were solutions, he didn't recognize the. And if there were promises, he didn't hear them." (180)

The third novel of the Parric series ends on a rather nebulous note, much like its predecessor Ascension did. It's all rather open-ended with wide plot gap to fill since The Shadow of Alpha. Questions linger... Where the bugger is Alpha and when the bugger will it return? Will civilization be re-established by the ever-so altruistic Parric family? Will physical contact be made with anyone overseas or can no one pilot a boat anymore? These questions remain.

*Cue dramatic music and nefarious laughter* There ARE no more books in the series! *laughter turns maniacal* In the preface of Legion, Charles Grant outlines a further two novelettes and three novels involving the Parric family with mentions that they are "not yet written". Legion was published in 1979 and the author passed away in 2006 - no follow-ups to the Parric series was ever pursued. I find the matter of the eternally lost Alpha a far bit distressing... it's lost forever in the realm of literature, only to remain a figment of the author's imagination and the Parric's seemingly genetic memory of its former greatness.

(I have emailed Charles Grant's wife in hope of receiving manuscripts or plot outlines for the remaining books... but she is still going through the deceased author's office. Fingers crossed!)

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