Lucky’s Harvest / The Fallen Moon – Ian Watson (1993 / 1994)
‘Lucky’s Harvest is the first in a two-volume epic – a work that rivals Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’ in scale, richness and complexity.
Drawing his inspiration from the great Finnish saga the Kalevala, Ian Watson has created a totally realistic and wonderfully exotic alien world. On Kaleva, Earth’s first and only interstellar colony, the entire community is indebted to Lucky, whose encounter with the mysterious entity known as the Ukko transported them across space to a land of lake, sea and forest, Kaleva.
Unfortunately, by her 402nd birthday, Lucky is more than a little crazy, and an exiled daughter is seeking sanctuary.’
Blurb from the 1984 VGSF paperback edition.
Ian Watson, amongst other things, is probably for me the David Bowie of SF (If indeed Bowie himself isn’t already the David Bowie of SF) since he is consistently and proliferously creative, inventive and not afraid of changing his style, sometimes taking SF or fantasy conventions and reinventing them in interesting ways. This has often been seen in his short stories. His previous novels have been dense, complex and pushed the envelope of SF.
Here, in a two volume epic, Watson moves into another direction and takes the tropes of Science Fantasy to make his own.
The backstory: Lucky, a young asteroid miner, encounters an Ukko, an asteroid-sized ship with convoluted chambers and pathways resembling a giant ear. The Ukko takes a liking to Lucky and asks her for her stories. In return the Ukko gives her a fabulous gift, a world resembling the world of the tales she has been telling, plus the bonus of immortality for her and her chosen husband who are destined to be the rulers of this new world. Additionally the Ukko arranges for a shuttle service between Earth and the planet Kaleva, and bring settlers from Earth who in turn tell tales to the Ukko during their journey.
Watson’s narrative begins centuries later. Lucky is by now a little unbalanced, as is her husband, Bertel, tired of his unending life. Lucky has given birth to a succession of daughters, each of whom has Lucky’s gift of giving their husband immortality, although they themselves age normally and die.
Some years after the humans started colonising, the Ukkos began brining the Isi to Kaleva; huge intelligent serpents with their humanoid slaves, the Juttahats. Their motives are unclear, but they like to meddle in human affairs.
The fantasy elements of ‘Lucky’s Harvest’ comprise of the combination of feudal society with the phenomenon of Mana, being a force that permeates the Northern hemisphere and allows certain people to perform acts of ‘magic’.
Osmo, one of the central characters, is a young proclaimer. By the use of his voice he can ‘bespeak’ objects and people. Prior to the start of the novel the young Osmo confronted the sadistic proclaimer tyrant Tycho Cammon and turned him tos tone. The staue was then kept in an alcove on osmo’s ‘keep’ and occasionally brought out for Osmo to depetrify Tycho’s face for the entertainment of his guests.
Osmo gains the enmity of the militant proclaimer Juke and his one-eyed sister Eyeno.
One of Lucky’s daughters, Jatta, has been seduced by a genetically engineered Juttahat in order that the Serpents can engender a human/juttahat hybrid. The resulting child is fast-growing and appears to have proclaimerlike powers.
Meanwhile, some people begin to suspect that the Mana force is emanating from an Ukko child which is buried somewhere on the planet and feeding on the stories and the drama of the world beneath which it is gestating.
Most of the characters, it seems, are seeking something. Lucky is seeking her true self, which she believes is still being held by the Ukko. Her husband Bertel is seeking death. Osmo is seeking immortality, as is Minkie, the lecherous young lord. The immortal Lord Beck is seeking a way of connecting with his long-dead wife Anna.
Eyeno is seeking a new eye, and her brother Juke is seeking victory over Osmo for reasons unknown.
Watching over all are the cat-eared green-scaled cuckoos that fly about the realm carrying gossip and news.
Those with some knowledge of Scandinavian mythology may recognise some of the elements being described here, since Watson has based this wonderful work on the Finnish saga of The Kalevala, something which also provided inspiration for novels by Emil Petaja and for Tolkien’s ‘Silmarillion’.