Friday, 27 July 2012
The Queen Of Air And Darkness
The first section contains several clues that it is set on another planet, the most obvious being a reference to "...the moons..." (p. 10), although the characters suggest fantasy:
two "...Outlings...," a flute-playing boy called Mistherd and a singing girl called Shadow-of-a-Dream, meet under a dolmen on Wolund's Barrow (p. 9);
a winged "pook" called "...Ayoch...," with a "...half-human face...," carries a stolen human child towards "...Carheddin under the mountains..." (pp. 9-10);
their Queen, variously addressed as "...Starmother...," "...Snowmaker..." and "...Lady Sky...," appears (pp. pp. 10-11).
Ayoch used "...dazedust..." to steal the child but not from "...yeomen...," instead from a camp where there were "...engines..." (p. 10) Thus, technology has somehow entered this (apparent) fantasy setting.
The second section also gives two messages but different ones. A woman called Barbo Cullen, whose son has been kidnapped, consults a high-cheeked, beak-nosed, pipe-smoking, unmarried private investigator living in an untidy, dusty apartment with laboratory equipment against one wall, who surprises her with information about herself which he then explains that he has deduced from her appearance. Thus, this Eric Sherrinford is based on Sherlock Holmes but the setting is science fictional because they are on the planet Roland to which he has traveled from the planet Beowulf.
So the first section presents apparent fantasy in an apparently extraterrestrial environment whereas the second section presents a detective story in an unequivocally extraterrestrial setting. The strands begin to converge when we learn that there are "...stories about the Outlings stealing human children..." and that the boy had disappeared from an exploratory camp where the dogs were drugged. (p.14)
The mystery is that there is no evidence of any present natives on Roland. But the reader has already seen the Outlings so we are already know the solution to the mystery that this literary descendant of Holmes is to solve! Thus, I think that the story fails to be the sf detective story that it could have been. There is more than this in the story so there will be some further posts.