on 21 June 2002
I bought this book on the strength of George RR Martin's other works and was in two minds once I received it - the blurb reads like the worst of romantic fantasy and with commendations by Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley (sorry but...) and a "young girl achieves her dreams of flying and makes the world a better place" plot synopsis.
Frankly I thought there was no hope for this story by this point. Still, I'd bought it and, even if it sounded like it was turgid wishy-washy idealism and escapism, I was going to have to read it...
Early next morning I finally finished the book and managed to put it down and get some sleep. Yes, the main character is a somewhat foolish idealist with a dream of flying and breaking down the caste system, but the story is about much more than that, it shows that even great and noble actions like establishing equality can have disasterous consequences and that changing the law to be "fairer" may sound good in principle but when it hurts your friends then your idealism wavers.
Definitely recommended and slightly off the well worn track of mainstream fantasy.
on 29 June 2001
Windhaven is a world where the only land is in the form of small islands in a stormy sea. It's only inhabitants are the descendants of a crashed Earth colony ship who live a low-technology existence on those islands. One of the major forms of communication on Windhaven is messages carried by the flyers who use wings crafted from the spaceship's materials to fly between the islands, the wings are highly prized and passed down only through the elite flyer families. The main theme of this books concerns the efforts of the ordinary citizens of Windhaven, particuarily the book's heroine, to be allowed the chance to be able to become flyers. The more conservative of the flyer families resist the idea of others also being allowed to fly and this book deals with the conflict between the two groups. Like Martin's other books the characters are what makes this book good, as well as the convincing and original world. Fans of his major series, A Song of Ice and Fire should not be disapointed although the theme and feel of the book bears more similarity to Anne Mcaffrey's Pern series than Martin's other books. In summary, an entertaining book that is well worth reading.
on 18 February 2010
On Windhaven Flyers play a vital role in the life of the community. The planet has no large landmass, instead consisting of thousands of small islands and the Flyers provide the only fast means to communication. The wings which make flying possible, are always passed on within families and the rules about who is eligible are very strict. Maris, though a fisherman's daughter was lucky to be adopted by a childless flyer and able to fulfil her childhood dream of flying. When her adopted father does have a son some years later after all, it looks like her flying days are numbered. To stop this from happening, Maris is prepared to do battle with tradition.
I bought this book mainly because I too have always dreamt of flying and reading a few sample pages felt that this book captured the thrill of having the sky to myself. So far, so good. The flying sequences are great (though pretty unrealistic) and the reader does feel the passion of the flyers. There is also the moral of the tale that actions have consequences, often beyond the obvious ones.
What lets the book down is the story itself. Rather than one good story, the book is really a collection of three novellas that have characters in common. Maybe I am too used to reading multi-volume epics, but the stories simply didn't feel fleshed out enough. Or should I use the words simply too short for me. They are like three snapshots, albeit good ones, when what I was looking for was a film.
There are some interesting relationships in the book, but I would definitely not call it a romance novel. All in all, a fantasy book for those who revel in beautiful descriptions and enjoy short stories.
George RR Martin's early stuff is being reissued on the back the success of his 'Song of Ice and Fire' series. And a good thing too. This collaboration with Lisa Tuttle at first gave me the impression it would be predictable but a good read. In fact it was wonderful.
It follows Maris, who has no right to fly except that there is nothing she wants more in the world. Broadly in three parts, the books charts her difficult, thrilling and compelling adventures right through her life. Boldly imagined, adult and moving, this is a very welcome reprint.
on 9 August 2002
I bought this book on the strength of ice and fire a truly imaginative and great read. I kept it safe to read on my holiday, I started to read it and immediately was struck by the similarity to Jack Vance Blue world. Maybe bacause of this I found that in comparison windhaven suffered.
Yes its quite good, but its not great. It reads like 3 separate stories combined with very little cohesion running through it.
Overall its pales beside the blue world and ice and fire, not bad but...... could be better.
Windhaven is a storm-wracked world consisting of a vast ocean and a small scattering of islands, home to the descendants of survivors of a spacecraft crash centuries earlier. The most efficient way of passing messages between islands is by the flyers, specially-trained men and women who can use strong-but-flexible 'wings' salvaged from the wrecked spaceship to ride the winds from island to island. Tradition has it that a flyer's wings are passed from parent to their eldest child, but this order is upset when Maris of Lesser Amberley, the adopted daughter of a flyer, is required to give up her wings to her adopted father's trueborn eldest child, who has no interest in flying. The establishment is opposed to any opening of the flyers' ranks to the 'land-bound', but the winds of change are blowing on Windhaven, and these changes will be difficult and potentially bloody.
Windhaven, originally published in 1981, is a 'fix-up' novel, consisting of two short stories written in the 1970s and a third, concluding section written for this edition. It was George R.R. Martin's second novel and Lisa Tuttle's first. With the book's feudal society and low technology level (due to a lack of metal on the islands), it is reminiscent of fantasy, although there is an SF background to the setting.
The novel is divided into three episodes, taken from different points in Maris's life. In the first, Maris has to fight tradition in order to hold onto her wings. In the second, Maris has succeeded in allowing the 'land-bound' to train as flyers, but faces problems when a bitter and angry new recruit attempts to earn his wings after rejecting the traditions of the flyer caste. In the third, an older Maris, recovering from a head injury, is drawn into a dispute over the powers of the flyers and the land-bound rulers of the islands.
Each episode builds on the same theme on tradition and transformation. Windhaven is, in essence, a caste-based society with the flyers held to different standards, laws and responsibilities as the land-bound. Maris's arguments for changing this to allow the land-bound commoners to train as flyers works because it solves an existing problem, where people in flyer families who are not good at flying are lost in accidents, and their irreplaceable wings with them. However, it is not a safe or easy answer, as the influx of new blood into the flyer community causes unforseen problems that the society has to deal with. The basic premise of a rigid society being changed by the actions of an individual (usually, as in this case, the protagonist) is commonplace, but Windhaven delights in exploring the consequences of each change and following the ripples and additional complications they cause. The book ends with, hopefully, a new, fairer and more permanent order being established, but even in this case Maris realises that problems will continue to arise, this being the nature of societies and indeed life.
Windhaven benefits from strong characterisation. Maris develops from episode to episode, the scope of her ambition widening as her understanding of the world grows. She starts out as a little girl who only wants to fly, but becomes a leader who must make sometimes unpopular decisions to maintain the rules she herself set in place. More complex still is Val, the 'one-wing' Maris starts out by hating but ultimately has to fight for, despite his own dislike of her. There is also S'Rella, the trainee flyer from the far south, who wants to follow in Maris's footsteps and is upset to find the world a harsher place than she thought, as well as Evan (a doctor in the service of a ruthless and cruel lord) and Coll (Maris's brother, born to be a flyer but wanting to be a singer). It's a small but well-defined cast of characters.
There's a strong sense of place to the islands of Windhaven, particularly successful as we still get a sense of the nature of some far-off places even though Maris never visits them. Song of Ice and Fire fans may also be amused to find some place-names that crop up again in the later series (such as the Iron Islands and the Eyrie). The descriptions of flying are vivid, although the actual act of flying plays a smaller role in the story than a reader might expect (it's function and ramifications being more central to the narrative).
Windhaven (****) is a solid early effort from both authors, though perhaps a tad slight compared to their later works and the book's short length requires a fair amount of convenience in plot developments (namely, the way Maris is at the centre of all three major world-shaking moments in the book). It's well-written, mixing cynicism with hope and adding a dash of realism to the optimism engendered by Maris's successes. It is available now in the UK and USA.
I read the second short story 'One-Wing' when it was first issued in Analog and was swept away to the planet of isolated islands, Windhaven. With an acute shortage of metal, and unceasing winds, the fastest way of communication between islands is by flyers. These trained people use hang-glider type metal wings strapped on to themselves and carry messages.
Traditions have built up as to who can fly and the oldest son usually gets the wings handed down. A girl called Maris rebels in the first story, 'Storms of Windhaven' and says the wings should belong to those best able to use them, as any pair of wings lost in the sea cannot be replaced. She sets up a Woodwings training school and manages to get an agreement on competitions for new flyers.
In 'One-Wing' a brooding man called Val seems determined to win his wings at any cost. He doesn't mean any harm to others, but he knows he's the best and the contest is over several days. Maris has to hold it all together and win her own wings despite the resentment of traditionalists.
And the final story 'The Fall' was written to complete the book and shows how it all plays out over time.
This is very well written and I have not been able to get into anything else by Martin so it may appeal to fans of Tuttle as much as Martin. There is no high-fantasy element, what you see is what you get. The characterisation, detail and atmosphere are excellent.