Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, February 29, 2016

1989: Children of the Wind (Wilhelm, Kate)

Themeless, directionless collection of novellas (3/5)

My experience with Wilhelm is limited to three novels and two novellas, all of which I have given a 3- or 4-star rating; for example, her novel The Killer Thing (1967) was quite good while “The Plastic Abyss” (1971) left something to be desired for. Neither have I been impressed nor disappointed. In her collection Children of the Wind, the stories don’t impress me yet again, but further, I’m disappointed in two of the five.

I wasn’t under the assumption that all five stories would be science fiction; I’m quite open to reading non-genre fiction and a bit of non-Tolkien/non-paranormal fantasy. Of the five stories in this collection, two are paranormal fantasy, two are fiction, and one is science fiction. Perhaps because of my distaste for fantasy, those two stories were the weakest, in my opinion. I couldn’t immerse myself in the story, couldn’t draw any parallelisms, couldn’t sense any direction or point. In contrast to these two dullards—one of which actually received a Nebula award for Best Novella (“The Girl Who Fell into the Sky”)—the one science fiction story (“A Brother to Dragons, a Companion of Owls “) and the first story (“Children of the Wind “) are pretty good, but not great.

“Children of the Wind” (1989, novella) – 4/5
Precocious at home and at school, the twin six-year-old boys of June and Robert are becoming an increasing headache. They invent their own secret language and indulge in fantasies yet they learn very quickly in areas like math and reading. When family is invited to housesit over the summer, June and Robert see it as beneficial to their jobs and for the boys. At the sprawling estate, an older boy named Lorne treats the twins with indignity; thus, the twins silently plot. 64 pages

“The Gorgon Field” (1985, novella) – 2/5
Constance and Charlie are invited by an old acquaintance to stay at her father’s hidden valley mansion tucked away amid the Colorado mountains; the catch: get a feel for her aging father’s sanity and his odd relationship with a man named Ramon. The fantastic scenery spellbinds both of them amid the estate’s plush service and furnishings. The towering stone gorgons especially captivate Constance who feels drawn to their power of beauty, but also another more mystical power. 58 pages

“A Brother to Dragons, a Companion of Owls” (1974, novelette) – 4/5
The earth is scorched and the city sits nearly dying as it’s handful of aging inhabitants cling to a so-called life by surviving on freeze-dried food and their respective hobbies. All are aged over 70 save for Boy, whose long-ago childhood trauma left his speechless. One day when Boy scavenges, he spies a lone band of children. Viewing from afar, the elderly city dwellers are shocked but become concerned then vengeful when people start to disappear. Only Llewellyn seems to see the future in them. 39 pages

“The Blue Ladies” (1983, novella) – 3/5
Daniel Borg is a reclusive millionaire in the small town of Potterstown, where life is slow and simple for its residents, including Cissy and Lee. The married couple moved to the small town so that Lee could live in relative peace after his wartime injury and recovery. To make ends meet, Cizzy takes odd jobs about town. The latest offer is the oddest yet most lucrative so far: pose for Mr. Borg. Though the money is good, she’s demeaned by his verbal abuse as he sits in his wheelchair, bound by anger, passion, and frailness. 41 pages

“The Girl Who Fell into the Sky” (1986, novelette) – 2/5

David MacLaren is a collector with a patchy history of war and revenge. John is on the receiving end of his father’s stories and now on the receiving end of his father’s hobby. As his father’s heart is frail, John travels hundreds of miles to an old mountain commune. When he arrives, he meets the unassuming figure of Lorna Shields, a member of the benefactor family for the estate sale. As the player piano plays in the middle of the night, the supernatural awakens. 49 pages

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