Winter Song by Colin Harvey

Colin was a local writer but he died before I got involved with the Bristol SF&F scene.  I have inevitably ended up with copies of his books.

In Winter Song Karl, a lone spacefarer, is fired on by a mystery ship and he has to land on the nearest inhabitable planet.

Inhabitable turns out to be a relative term – the planet was halfway terraformed before the Formers pulled out, leaving behind a population that originally came from Iceland, so they are a pretty hardy bunch. They have organised in the same way as medieval Icelandic society worked.  (Harvey spent a lot of time in Iceland to do research; medieval Iceland is something I know a lot about and he doesn’t get anything egregiously wrong and anyway it’s a far-future analogue thereof).

It’s a precarious existence, and Karl is not entirely welcome, a state of affairs amplified by the fact that before he ejected, his ship’s consciousness downloaded into Karl’s brain, something it was never meant to do.  Eventually things are worked out but in the early weeks Karl presents as having a split personality.

All he wants is to get off this rock and get back home to his family.  To do this he has to trek across a hostile winter landscape to a ship which pre-dates the Icelandic colonists and hope that he can contact the outside world.

Even though this book has several of the sci-fi/fantasy tropes that I normally don’t get on with (mainly the travelling.  So much travelling), I quite enjoyed this.  The characters and the plot were engaging enough to keep me wanting to know what happened next, and there are some really fascinating concepts – the best of which is that where the Formers believed in terraforming planets, there was a rival faction which believed in adapting people to the planets they found.

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