"The Road to Corlay" takes place 18 years after the events at the gates of York described in the "Piper" and follows Thomas of Norwich, one of the Boy Piper's followers, as he tries to make his way from the shattered islands of a far-future Drowned Britain to the distant castle of Corlay in Brittany. Disaster befalls Thomas betwee the Quantock and Blackdown hills of Devon and Somerset - divided islands in a new Somersea in the drowned Britian of this far-flung future world - and he is cast overboard to drown in the sea above Taunton.
There, no doubt, he would drown were it not for the intervention of a mind from the far past of the 20th century - a mind that is as lost and faces as much danger as does Thomas himself. These two people, a drowned religious pilgrim from the future and a dying scientist from the far past, are locked together in a strange embrace that keeps them both alive for the duration of the novel - but at a terrible cost.
A third hero enters the tale in the form of Brother Francis, the private investigator of a senior member of the Catholic Church, who is sent to uncover the truth about this strange new religion of the Boy, known as "Kinship".Read more ›
Now segue 1,000 years into the PAST (before the great "Drowning") into a world of cathode ray encephalographs, sine wave frequency, and O.O.B.E.'s (out of body experiences). Seems some British scientists have made contact with Thomas of Norwitch, who is floating in the Somersea (which used to be Somerset) thrown overboard and left for dead because he's a kinsman. The scientist Carver finds himself in Thomas' consciousness. Carver wouldn't be detected at all if not for Jane, the Kinfolk girl with e.s.p. powers who knows he is there and reaches back 1,000 years to contact the Bride of Time in his reality.
At first you might get the impression that this is sword and sorcery at worst or fantasy at best until you get to the second book and you know it's true science fiction. I know of few writers who can pull this off - Ursula LeGuin comes to mind. This novel, because of the "Church Militant", has been compared to *A Canticle for Libowitz*, but for sheer lyricism and philosophical depth, it reminds me most of *Engine Summer* by John Crowley. Cowper made this into a trilogy - the kinship novels - all well worth reading, but this first one, with its sense of wonder and delight, is, in my opinion, his best.