SORAK’S LEGACY by Hedley Harrison. Book review

SORAK’S LEGACY by Hedley Harrison, The Book Guild Ltd, p/b £8.99

Reviewed by Nigel Robert Wilson

This is the third book in this trilogy following Sorak’s Redemption and the second, Sorak Returns. The underlying plot in all three is that a manned star-probe crash-landed on a distant planet causing the survivors to create an alien civilisation in a hostile environment. As a concept and an exploration of human responses to severe circumstances, this is good science fiction.

In this final book, Sorak and her supporters have established a sort of peace in the City which was riven by revolution and civil war before Sorak’s return from her long exile with Nasa deep in the planet’s interior. Yet society in the City is not just divided but shattered, with all sorts of factions doing their own thing, some constructive whilst others bemoan the privileges and the security they have lost. This is in many ways a commentary of modern post-industrial society.

The newly reconstituted Senate is more concerned about self-promotion than improving the capability of the City to enhance the lives of its many citizens. The new freedoms asserted from the old authoritarian practices have induced a chaos of ill-discipline. There are para-military groups in various forms. One, which describes itself as the Defenders has grown up around descendants of the old ruling class. The reader will be reminded of other civilisations in decline.

There is also evidence of external incursions from humans living outside the City. This comes as a total surprise which, once investigated by Nasa reveals a parallel rural society also descended from the crew of the crashed star-probe in the wild interior. This is also experiencing its own social traumas.  

Inevitably a reactionary political movement develops in the City seeking a return to lost certainties. Its development and final collapse is the central portion of the tale. Its leader, Anstan is a civilian seeking her own resolution through the deployment of military means. She manages to recruit many of the old officer class to her side and some of the retired soldiers. The denouement has tragic consequences for all, but the reality that nobody really wants a war becomes evident and the need for a workable peace to create a sustainable and confident future becomes accepted. It is the usual human story of muddle as every available option is tested until the right solution is found.    

The main criticism of Sorak’s Redemption was poor editing. The same applies to this volume. The tale is fragmented and refuses to flow comfortably to keep the reader glued to the pages. It is sad to see that such a well-argued book of human beings facing huge cultural and conceptual challenges is let down by a consistent failure to make those essential final read-throughs that eliminate inconsistencies and smooth out any unintended joins in the story. Even the publisher’s blurb on the back of the book has an error in it!

The huge number of fantasy novels being written today is on the one hand very encouraging, but issues of quality in the final production are becoming more evident than ever before. The reading public who fund all this with their hard-earned deserves better.