The books describe realistic and credible details of the planet from the perspectives of a great variety of fields of study — astronomy, geology, climatology, geobiology , microbiology, religion, society, and many others — for which Aldiss gained the help of many Oxford academics. Connections are drawn which show numerous ways in which these aspects of life affect each other. The books are set some six thousand years in the future. A space station from Earth, the Avernus, is orbiting Helliconia and closely observing the planet,  including the activities of its intelligent inhabitants. The temptation to interfere in Helliconian affairs is a recurring dilemma for the inhabitants of Avernus.
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Shelves: science-fiction , e-book , read-in This final book of the trilogy plays out similar to the first book, but in reverse order.
The circumstances of the climate change are well known and understood by this point so this book focuses on a single character over about 20 to 30 years of his life. Obviously over such a short period of time little changes in the overall climate. Instead, the prejudices and persecution of the common people by the secular and religious leadership take center stage in this book.
I am giving this trilogy a 4 This final book of the trilogy plays out similar to the first book, but in reverse order. I am giving this trilogy a 4 star rating overall as there is some very detailed and complex world building. The first half of this is another great adventure yarn - we have the battle of Isturiacha, the retreat and then the dash along the coast before the challenges of the journey up to Kharnabar.
We also have the grotesque challenges of the Fat Death and the tyranny of the Oligarch. This is all enjoyable and a lot less bogged down with politics than Summer. However, the second half is dominated by asides covering deteriorating conditions on the Avernus and indeed a lot of future history, and philosophy, on Earth itself.
I found the Earth stuff in particular getting in the way of the main story. It also dates the book badly - lots of s obsessions with nuclear war and Gaia. A similar phase now may include a new incarnation of Gaia but would focus more on an environmental catastrophe. A highlight of the book is the description of the Great Wheel itself.
I still think it should be called Autumn. Unless my understanding of celestial mechanics is faulty which it may be. There is scope for another "Winter" book I think, perhaps set in Hespagorat which has a Scandinavian feel in Summer as Freyr never sets but also never gives much warmth. Aldiss achieved an incredible feat of world-building. Helliconia is detailed and intricate and rich, the ecosystem finely tuned to the specific quirks of the binary star system he imagined.
The necrogenic animals, the cycles across the Great and Small Years, the subhuman races and their quirks all blew my mind. The subplot dealing with background I loved this series. The subplot dealing with background developments on Earth was just as well done.
Even though each book dealt with an entirely different set of characters, it was never difficult to empathise and become involved in their struggles. The characters were realistic and human, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. This is a world that has not left me since I read Helliconia Spring.
It is an immense tapestry of story and world, threads from centuries ago resurfacing for some small relevance in a new setting created by the position of a planet relative to two suns.
It is simply genius. The Great Winter is about to descend on the planet with full, unmitigated fury. The tropical continent of Campannlat is ill-prepared to deal with the falling temperatures, and the defeat of their armies by the forces of the harsh northern landmass of Sibornal signals the beginning of the end of their period of dominance. Luterin Shokerandit, a soldier in the Sibornalese army, returns home in triumph, only to face treachery.
The world of Helliconia is moving away from the supergiant star Freyr. The ruthless leader of Sibornal, the Oligarch, has decreed that the victorious army is returning home infested with plague, and cannot be allowed to reach succor. Meanwhile, life on the Earth Observation Station Avernus, in orbit around Helliconia for almost four millennia, is drawing to an end as the inhabitants revert to savage barbarism, even as the world beneath them falls from the glories of Summer into the abyss of Winter.
But some in Sibornal have vowed that humanity and civilisation will ride out the Winter no matter the cost in blood Helliconia Winter picks up the story of the world of Helliconia local years - Earth years - after the events of Helliconia Summer. As before, whilst the individual characters who starred in the previous novel are long dead the fall-out of their actions continues to have consequences in this novel, although in this case at something of a remove, since the action is now transplanted to the northern continent of Sibornal.
Here, we follow a band of characters led by the betrayed Luterin as he struggles to return to his distant home in the Shivenink Chain, giving rise to what, potentially, should have been the most dynamic storyline in The Helliconia Trilogy.
Instead, we get a travelogue. A fascinating, intelligent, well thought-out travelogue, but nevertheless there is the feeling of Aldiss pointing out the cool scenery at the expense of developing his themes in tandem with the plot. These ideas are interesting and intelligently-handled, but whilst in Spring and Summer they integrated nicely into the Helliconian story, here they are separated, to the detriment of both.
That said, it is satisfying to get an answer for the mystery of why the Helliconian afterlife spirits went from angry, monstrous creatures in Helliconia Spring to peaceful, loving entities in Helliconia Summer, and these developments do a good job of tying the relevance of events in the two earlier books to the events of this one.
The landforms the characters pass through, the political machinations within the government of Sibornal and its member-states and the constant evolution of the flora and fauna of Helliconia to deal with its climatic extremes all remain stunning. His characters are similarly well-drawn and convincing, but it has to be said in this case they are mostly unpleasant and selfish characters whose ambitions and motivations are interesting on an intellectual level, but unengaging on an emotional one.
In particular, his female characters receive short shrift here, which is odd especially after the first book in the series where it is the women of Oldorando who drive forward its scientific and technological development. The ending is also rather more unsatisfying than in the first two books, where the ambiguous conclusions are alleviated by us learning what happened next in historical texts mentioned in the succeeding volume.
With no succeeding volume to Helliconia Winter, the ending is too abrupt. However, it is the weakest book of the trilogy, with an unsatisfying ending and a cold, remote prose style that is not as engaging as the first two books in the series. Nevertheless, the ambition and achievement of the trilogy as a whole remains stunning. The novel is available now in the USA and in the UK will be reissued as part of the new Helliconia omnibus due for release on 12 August this year.
Helliconia - Winter