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Helliconia Summer (Helliconia, V. 2) [Hardcover]

Brian Wilson Aldiss
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov 1983 Helliconia, V. 2 (Book 2)
A planet orbiting binary suns, Helliconia has a Great Year spanning three millennia of Earth time: cultures are born in spring, flourish in summer, then die with the onset of the generations-long winter. It is the summer of the Great Year on Helliconia. The humans are involved with their own affairs. Their old enemies, the phagors, are comparatively docile at this time of year, yet they can afford to wait, to take advantage of human weakness?and the king's weakness. How they do so brings to a climax this powerfully compelling novel, in which the tortuous unwindings of circumstance enmesh royalty and commoners alike, and involve the Helliconia continents. This is the second volume of the Helliconia Trilogy?a monumental saga that goes beyond anything yet created by this master among today's imaginative writers.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Atheneum (Nov 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0689113889
  • ISBN-13: 978-0689113888
  • Product Dimensions: 24.1 x 16.5 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,815,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Aldiss's father ran a department store that his grandfather had established, and the family lived above it. At the age of 6, Brian was sent to board at West Buckland School in Devon, which he attended until his late teens. In 1943, he joined the Royal Signals regiment, and saw action in Burma; his encounters with tropical rainforests at that time may have been at least a partial inspiration for Hothouse, as his Army experience inspired the Horatio Stubbs second and third books.

After World War II, he worked as a bookseller in Oxford. Besides short science fiction for various magazines, he wrote a number of short pieces for a booksellers trade journal about life in a fictitious bookshop, and this attracted the attention of Charles Monteith, an editor at the British publishers Faber and Faber. As a result of this, Aldiss's first book was The Brightfount Diaries (1955), a novel in diary form about the life of a sales assistant in a bookshop.
In 1955, The Observer newspaper ran a competition for a short story set in the year 2500, which Aldiss won with a story entitled "Not For An Age". The Brightfount Diaries had been a minor success, and Faber asked Aldiss if he had any more writing that they could look at with a view to publishing. Aldiss confessed to being a science fiction author, to the delight of the publishers, who had a number of science fiction fans in high places, and so his first science fiction book, a collection of short stories entitled Space, Time and Nathaniel was published. By this time, his earnings from writing equalled the wages he got in the bookshop, so he made the decision to become a full-time writer.
He was voted the Most Promising New Author at the World Science Fiction Convention in 1958, and elected President of the British Science Fiction Association in 1960. He was the literary editor of the Oxford Mail newspaper during the 1960s. Around 1964 he and his long-time collaborator Harry Harrison started the first ever journal of science fiction criticism, Science Fiction Horizons, which during its brief span of two issues published articles and reviews by such authors as James Blish, and featured a discussion among Aldiss, C. S. Lewis, and Kingsley Amis in the first issues, and an interview with William S. Burroughs in the second.

Besides his own writings, he has had great success as an anthologist. For Faber he edited Introducing SF, a collection of stories typifying various themes of science fiction, and Best Fantasy Stories. In 1961 he edited an anthology of reprinted short science fiction for the British paperback publisher Penguin Books under the title Penguin Science Fiction. This was remarkably successful, going into numerous reprints, and was followed up by two further anthologies, More Penguin Science Fiction (1963), and Yet More Penguin Science Fiction (1964). The later anthologies enjoyed the same success as the first, and all three were eventually published together as The Penguin Science Fiction Omnibus (1973), which also went into a number of reprints. In the 1970s, he produced several large collections of classic grand-scale science fiction, under the titles Space Opera (1974), Space Odysseys (1975), Galactic Empires (1976), Evil Earths (1976), and Perilous Planets (1978) which were quite successful. Around this time, he edited a large-format volume Science Fiction Art (1975), with selections of artwork from the magazines and pulps.
In response to the results from the planetary probes of the 1960s and 1970s, which showed that Venus was completely unlike the hot, tropical jungle usually depicted in science fiction, he and Harry Harrison edited an anthology Farewell, Fantastic Venus!, reprinting stories based on the pre-probe ideas of Venus. He also edited, with Harrison, a series of anthologies The Year's Best Science Fiction (1968-1976?)

Brian Aldiss also invented a form of extremely short story called the Minisaga. The Daily Telegraph hosted a competition for the best Minisaga for several years and Aldiss was the judge.[2] He has edited several anthologies of the best Minisagas.

He traveled to Yugoslavia, where he met Yugoslav fans in Ljubljana, Slovenia; he published a travel book about Yugoslavia; he published an alternative-history fantasy story about Serbian kings in the Middle Ages; and he wrote a novel called The Malacia Tapestry, about an alternative Dalmatia.

He has achieved the honor of "Permanent Special Guest" at ICFA, the conference for the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts, which he attends annually.

He was awarded the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to literature in HM Queen Elizabeth II's Birthday Honours list, announced on 11 June 2005.

In January 2007 he appeared on Desert Island Discs. His choice of record to 'save' was Old Rivers sung by Walter Brennan, his choice of book was John Halpern's biography of John Osborne, and his luxury a banjo. The full selection of eight favourite records is on the BBC website .

On 1 July 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Liverpool in recognition of his contribution to literature.

In addition to a highly successful career as a writer, Aldiss is also an accomplished artist whose abstract compositions or 'isolées' are influenced by the work of Giorgio de Chirico and Wassily Kandinsky. His first solo exhibition The Other Hemisphere was held in Oxford, UK, in August-September 2010, and the exhibition's centrepiece 'Metropolis' has since been released as a limited edition fine art print.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than the first one! 22 Jan 2005
Format:Paperback
This is a tale of adventures of foreign people on a strange planet in outer space, but Aldiss paints his human characters with such intimacy and familiarity that the average reader cannot help but strongly relate. It's one of those books that doesn't come across as science fiction, even though it's replete with descriptions of a cyclical ecology that could theoretically work in real life.
Helliconia Summer is the second of a trilogy. The first book, Helliconia Spring, takes over half of its space describing the evolution of the planet and, consequently, the humans inhabiting it. The last fourth of the novel zooms in on one small but key town and follows the goings on of about 10 characters. Helliconia Summer opens in the same zoom on a new set of characters many centuries later, and follows them until the very end, where about 8 pages are zoomed back out to describe the evolution of the planet again.
Aldiss won the John W. Campbell Award in 1983 for Helliconia Spring, but to my surprise, has not won any awards that I know of for Helliconia Summer, which in my opinion is a far better book. I am hoping that the final book, Helliconia Winter, will be even better!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent continuation of the trilogy 2 Jun 2010
By A. Whitehead TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Helliconia basks in the glow of the Great Summer. The continent of Campannlat is now dominated by the Holy Empire, a loose religious affiliation between the three great kingdoms of Pannoval, Oldorando and Borlien. These nations find themselves threatened by the far less technologically-advanced but considerably more populous jungle and desert nations to the west and the even more savage tribes to the east. When King JandolAnganol suffers a humiliating defeat to tribesmen using firearms (bought at great cost from the progressive nations of Sibornal far to the north), he divorces his wife so he might seek a more favourable alliance by marrying a princess of Oldorando. However, the queen is a greatly popular figure in Borlien and by divorcing her the king enrages the native population, triggering political turmoil and military action that will have great ramifications for all of Helliconia.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Earth Observation Station Avernus have fallen into internal dissent and debate over the nature of reality and their own orders from distant Earth not to interfere with life on Helliconia. Rejecting this order from a world they can never see or return to, the crew hold a lottery with a grand prize: to allow the winner to visit Helliconia, so for the brief few months it will take for the planet's viruses and bacteria to kill him he can live under a real sky. The arrival of Billy Xiao Pin in Borlien's capital likewise triggers events that will have unforeseen consequences.

Helliconia Summer picks up the story of the world of Helliconia some 355 local years - more than 500 Earth years - after the conclusion of Helliconia Spring.
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Format:Paperback
Well, I have read Helliconia Spring, and I thought it was fantastic. A gripping, vibrant SF adventure tale (see my review). Therefore, I was looking forward to Helliconia Summer, hoping it would be more of the same. I finished it last night.

There are several points to make. The first one has to be, Helliconia Summer certainly does not carry on where Spring left off. There is a big jump in time, with completely different characters. Of course, it is not wrong for a book to do this, but in this case, the jump is so large, I found it a bit difficult to pick up the thread.

Secondly, Summer gets off to a slow start. This is true of Spring also, but Summer takes even longer to get going. However, it does eventually warm up.

Thirdly, and most importantly, Summer is a different sort of book to Spring. Whereas Spring was a rip-roaring adventure tale, Summer is more of a political thriller. This is fine, but was not always quite my cup of tea.

Now don't get me wrong here. Aldiss writes really, really well. His characters are strong and vivid, his descriptive language regarding the planet Helliconia is often gripping, and certainly there are moments of high drama in Summer. I do not question Aldiss' status as an SF Grandmaster. However, when I wrote my review of Spring, I stated that it had me "gasping with excitement" (which it did). This is, however, not quite true of Summer I am afraid. In that sense, it was perhaps just a titchy bit disappointing. But I do stress that Summer is still pretty good, with enough drama and twists and turns to satisfy, if not to have me constantly on the edge of my seat.

I may eventually get around to reading Helliconia Winter, but I'm not sure when.
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Helliconia in this novel is shown in a different way, more intimate, in a shorter span of time but way more confusing chronologically speaking.

At the time of the book, Earth as reached the year (circa) 6900 or 6800 after Christ, and Helliconia is reaching the peak of the summer of the Great Year, following the story of the queen MyrdemIngalla and King JandolAnganol, both of the kingdom of Borlien. I consider that all the other characters are "sidekicks" and are deeply influenced by the decisions and lives of the queen and king.

The second part of this trilogy happens (I think) in a period of time spanning from a year to a couple of them, and so the world exploration of "Helliconia Spring" is partically non-existent, being substituted into exploration of cultures, meaning the Madis or even the phagors. This, however, creates the intimate mood I wrote and might appeal less to the enthusiasts of the first book, none of this means this tale is worst.

The recurrent flashbacks shows a very different world, changed in a few centuries. The slow and small (but existent) rise of scholars, the "somewhat" inverse relationship between phagors and humans and a less superstitious society. The alternation of back when and now is certainly disorientating, but shows something else, the accentuated appearance of Avernus, even an "Avernunian" in the actual planet (just try to imagine his fate).

Now to explain the title of the review, in my view the novel doesn't have a force of its own, it's borrowed from "... Spring", it brings more of the same (kind of) and in ideals is the same. But bear this, it is not necessarily bad, it is less original. This happens to lots of others true science fiction (not fantasy) sagas, only the first and last are really good.

Enjoy the read and till next time,
M.I.T.H. (ManInsideTheHelm)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best 2 Mar 1999
By Michael Battaglia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Continuing his very successful (critcally at least I have no idea how well it sold, though the book trumpets that it's an "international best seller") Helliconia series about a planet with a two thousand year long revolution and two hundred year seasons (give or take), he expands and clarifies all the stuff that happened in the first book, which you don't even need to read to understand. So much time has passed since the first book that everything that happened is mostly the stuff of distorted legend if they even remember it at all. This time around he chooses to focus on one group of people over a period of maybe ten years or so instead of the massive scope of the first book and he proves he can pull off both with ease. Court intrigue, suspense, the slow heating of the planet amidst the politics of the planet, it's all there. And just so you remember that Aldiss is a science-fiction writer, he expands on the notion of Earth watching the planet and shows that they'll have more of a role in the series than you would expect. All in all, incredibly detailed planetbuilding by someone not normally known for that sort of stuff, this is the type of book that people label a "classic" and for good reason. Everything works, even the plot technique of showing us the aftermath of something and then bouncing back in the narrative to show us what happened before (and they passing it at some point, it can get confusing if you're not paying attention) works. Even with the heat and whatnot, Helliconia becomes a place you want to live. I know I do. Criminally this book is out of print, something that should be recitified by someone (listening publishers, this series should not only be available in Britian!) but if you ever find it used, snap it up, it might be hard to find but definitely worth the time spent searching for it.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as Spring 2 April 2006
By Matko Vladanovic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have already stated somewhere my disgust over the translation of this book that is avaliable in my country, better to say of the translation of the volume one. The volume two didn't get any better in that sence.

But that is beside the point. As much as I enjoyed Helliconia Spring, finding myself able to feel on the top of the planet surface which was torchured by the immense cold climate and hostile enviroment, I have found something lacking in the Summer part of trilogy.

Summer part much resembles Renaissance and the birth of the modern age on our planet and in our own history. Struggle between dogma and numerous religions, scientific approach and exploration mixed with political struggle of all kinds, all of that seems much to familiar, and in sa sense, boring.

It is not that I do not enjoy history, and that I cannot perceive weird and almost twisted loggic (or better to say illogic) behind it all, but problem can be placed in an inadequate, lets call it, effort from the side of the author, who felt much more confident in rewriting and adapting humankind history than to create one of his own.

It is still amazingly interesting (and fun) book, but for me it lacked that feeling of new world being created in front of my eyes. Thus the four stars though I am aware that that rate is of questionable value.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book that fails to match up to "Helliconia Spring" 13 Jun 2010
By Brett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"Helliconia Summer" is the second book in Brian Aldiss' Helliconia Trilogy, a story about the evolution of a human society upon a harsh world beset by centuries' long "Great Seasons". It is a solid entry, but fails to quite live up to the standard set by "Helliconia Spring".

"Helliconia Summer" is set in the flowering of human civilization - the point when the planet Helliconia is nearing the closest point it gets to the more prominent of its two suns. It is a period of renaissance and technological advancement for Helliconian humanity, but also one of conflict, both with each other and with the ancient inhabitants of the planet - the minotaur-like Phagors. In this setting, Aldiss sets the story of the trials and travails of King JandolAnganol of Borlien, as he attempts to secure his position and nation amidst the politics of Helliconia.

This book is very different from its predecessor, in two primary ways. Whereas "Helliconia Spring" was largely a narrative of the development of humanity as Spring occurred, and featured succeeding generations of human characters, "Helliconia Summer" takes place over a much more limited period of time, and focuses largely on the same cast for most of the novel. This creates a fairly rich plot in terms of character development, but loses some of the unique exploration of the setting that was such a major part of "Helliconia Spring".

Unfortunately, the second difference does not work well. "Helliconia Summer" has a rather bizarre chronological structure, with events near the beginning, followed by a series of disconnected flashbacks. The result is incoherent and irritating to try and puzzle out, and came across as highly unnecessary.

If you are seeking more exploration of the world itself, then you're in for a bit of disappointment. If, however, you are looking for a good story and characters in Aldiss's setting, then this book will be a good, but not great, read for you.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent continuation of the trilogy 2 Jun 2010
By A. Whitehead - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Helliconia basks in the glow of the Great Summer. The continent of Campannlat is now dominated by the Holy Empire, a loose religious affiliation between the three great kingdoms of Pannoval, Oldorando and Borlien. These nations find themselves threatened by the far less technologically-advanced but considerably more populous jungle and desert nations to the west and the even more savage tribes to the east. When King JandolAnganol suffers a humiliating defeat to tribesmen using firearms (bought at great cost from the progressive nations of Sibornal far to the north), he divorces his wife so he might seek a more favourable alliance by marrying a princess of Oldorando. However, the queen is a greatly popular figure in Borlien and by divorcing her the king enrages the native population, triggering political turmoil and military action that will have great ramifications for all of Helliconia.

Meanwhile, the crew of the Earth Observation Station Avernus have fallen into internal dissent and debate over the nature of reality and their own orders from distant Earth not to interfere with life on Helliconia. Rejecting this order from a world they can never see or return to, the crew hold a lottery with a grand prize: to allow the winner to visit Helliconia, so for the brief few months it will take for the planet's viruses and bacteria to kill him he can live under a real sky. The arrival of Billy Xiao Pin in Borlien's capital likewise triggers events that will have unforeseen consequences.

Helliconia Summer picks up the story of the world of Helliconia some 355 local years - more than 500 Earth years - after the conclusion of Helliconia Spring. The planet is not far from its time of closest approach to the supergiant star Freyr and humanity rules supreme over the planet, the phagor population reduced to slavery or forced to hide in remote mountain valleys. It is a time of great technological innovation, with firearms, gunpowder and cannons flowing south from Sibornal, but also of turmoil, with the doctrines of the Pannovalan Church stifling the advance of technology and science within Campannlat itself. Like its forebear, the novel mixes thematic elements such as the rise and fall of civilisations, the advance of science and the uneasy union of progress and religion, with a more traditional action and character-driven narrative.

Helliconia Summer, appropriately, sprawls luxuriantly where its forebear was more focused and constrained in narrative scope and geographical area. It is in this novel that Aldiss' achievement in creating Helliconia is best-realised, with lush descriptions of the world and its myriad animal life and human cultures in full flower. The main storyline is compelling, combining intriguing politics and well-realised (if not particularly likable) characters clashing over the fate of their kingdoms in the face of warfare, religious turmoil and arguments over the fate of the phagors, the dominant nonhuman species of Helliconia reduced by the heat into docile soldier-slaves. The relevance of having an observation station from Earth is also made clearer in this novel, with one of the Avernus crewmembers becoming an important character. There are also some intriguing mysteries, such as a murder mystery whose conclusion is ambiguous and a deeper one surrounding the changes in pauk, the bizarre ability of the Helliconian people to commune with the spirits of their ancestors after death, which provide much food-for-thought going into the third and final novel.

On the negative side, the book suffers slightly from its lack of focus compared to the first volume and also from a somewhat clumsy chronological structure, where the first several chapters take place in the present and then we rewind a year and move forward to where the first part began, then skip to after it. The story doesn't really require this structure and would perhaps have benefited from a more linear progression.

In Helliconia Summer (****) Aldiss' grand ambition, nothing less than a history of an entire world and its peoples across vast chasms of time, becomes clearer and more impressive. The book is available now (albeit somewhat expensively) in the USA and will form part of the new UK Helliconia omnibus due on 12 August this year.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best book in the series 29 Aug 2007
By Adam Connor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is by far the best book in the series - not quite great, but an interesting book to read. The characters are vibrant, their motivations understandable, the plot at least somewhat plausible. As with all the Helliconia books, there are many loose ends and the author never quite made me care about his characters, but it does a reasonable job of delivering on the "grand sweep of history" motif that Aldiss apparently intended for Helliconia.
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