Having just finished my homework assignment reading for this week, I needed another book to read while on the stationary bike this morning. I found Anne McCaffrey‘s The Coelura (Science Fiction 161 pages (60 of those pages are illustrations)) on my shelf and decided to read it, as it was short, small, and portable.
(This book has kind of a long description):
‘”Before she could close the canopy behind her, the sky above her erupted in a flight of rainbows that sang a liquid lovely welcome ….’ The lady Caissa, heir of the Ambassador of the Federated Sentient Planets to the world of Demeathorn, had grown up knowing that she owed her sire obedience and unconditional loyalty. She expected to do her duty, even to the extent of entering into a marriage alliance she did not understand with a man she despised. Lady Caissa, beautiful, rich and well-educated, had never learned the great secret of Demeathorn, although she was about to be caught in its unraveling. In the aftermath of a disastrous negotiation, she fled northward by airship toward interdicted territory; a distress signal from deep within the forbidden zone drew her to a rocky island off the coast. And there she encountered a man alone: intense, handsome, and severely injured in the crash of his antique flyer. She did not know it, but she had just set in motion events which would determine the fate of her father and her planet, and her own happiness for the rest of her life.”
The sad part about the description for this book is that this is pretty much the entire story of the book, summarized in 190 words.
I think one of the interesting parts of this book is that I believe it came out before the mass market trade paperback graphic novel compilations that appear to be gaining popularity these days. I have an ever-growing collection of these myself, and I enjoy them greatly. My copy of this book was printed in 1987, with a first edition noted as being in 1983. The previously mentioned 60 pages of illustrations were done by Ned Dameron. I think that this book would have actually made a very good graphic novel, especially if the illustrations were done in color and the words were used to accent the artwork. That sounds a little bit weird, I think, so I’ll try to explain it a little better. I kind of felt like in this book, maybe because of formatting, the illustrations sometimes jumped the gun a little bit on the words. I would turn the page and see the illustration and the words would not be there just yet. So it felt a little disjointed to me. But I really do think that the artwork is very imaginative and also clearly a product of the 1980s 🙂 Characters had mullets and big hair with flared boots and gloves. I don’t really pay attention to fashion, but this made me smile.
I’m not sure how I feel about the role of women in this society. Caissa is both an accomplished, well-respected hunter, but also her father’s property at the same time, and her sole purpose is to produce a viable offspring for a man somewhere. The other side of that, though is that it appears as though she is free to form her own contracts and to come and go as she wishes. The world-building in this story is not really strong enough for me to form an educated opinion about the actual gender roles, but it really feels like the story wants females to be empowered and powerful, but all the actual power resides with the males. I’m not certain if Caissa’s womb-mother, High Lady Cinna of Aldebaran, had any real power or if she just used her wealth to be beautiful and fashionable – to be a person who desired jealousy and envy in those around her. But all the governments appear to be headed by males and all the contracts officiated by males. So things look like they’re supposed to be equal, but they’re really not. I just go the sense of gender discrimination and am not entirely certain that this sense was accurate. Though Caissa was demonstrated to be sexually active, and able to choose her partners with no obvious negative repercussions. I don’t know. The words I read and the feeling I got from the book seem to be conflicting.
The imagination in this story was fantastic and I liked a lot of the implications, but most of the world-building was just that – implications. The illustrations show a world filled with alien life and the alien life is only barely mentioned as the catalyst for the entire story.
Overall, this books is definitely a short, quick read, and it worked well for me during my workout this morning. But I’m not entirely certain I would enjoy reading it for fun in my leisure time. I think for that, it’s going to rate a very low two on my rating scale.