Book/page totals

Top 10 Lists

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

cover of The Coelura

This novella paints an interesting picture of a highly advanced interplanetary society which is backward in a few specific ways: most notably, the very hierarchical class structure, and the importance of hunting. Because this society is so interested in wealth and physical appearance, they nearly destroyed the initially mysterious coelura of the title-- lovely, colorful, joyful creatures who are able to spin a wonderful fabric, which is beautiful and mood responsive, personalized to its wearer. In the time of the book, these coelura have been mostly forgotten, and the lands where they live have been interdicted and cut off from the rest of society on the planet and elsewhere. The main character, Lady Caissa, is a "body-heir" torn between her duty to her sire, an attraction to the mysterious stranger she rescues, Murell, and her delight in the beautiful coelura, which she fears her father will destroy in his greed to control them and re-establish the trade of coelura-spun fabric.

A lot of action is condensed into very few pages, which means that you get a little taste of this interesting society, but you don't get all the details; and you don't really have enough to be able to completely understand all the political machinations until the end. Some of the details of this story are very appealing and appropriate. For instance, when Caissa first meets Murell, he has been injured and has healed poorly because he has been stranded; in a society with advanced medicine, where a child can only be declared a body-heir once they are determined to be "physically perfect", Murell's imperfections are strange to Caissa-- but she is attracted to him in spite of his physical imperfections. Also, I like the way McCaffrey ties the abuse of the Coelura to their near extinction: each coelura has a limited amount of spinning it can do in its lifetime, and this is included in the mating net they must spin to mate and continue their species. Murell is introduced in such a way that we are supposed to be attraced to him and think highly of him, as Caissa does, but it must be admitted that he is both clever and wise in his plan to protect and preserve the coelura.

The plot is not too sophisticated, and is fairly predictable (you know that Caissa and Murell will end up together, and it is obvious that he is a person of some importance in this hierarchical society); however, I still found it fairly entertaining to follow the story to its conclusion. Because of the brevity and simplicity of this book (I read it in just one evening), I wondered if this book should be classified as Young Adult material, but the slightly risquée illustrations and the romantic encounter between Caissa and Murell suggests that it might not be completely appropriate for youngsters. The illustrations in the book are interesting, although unfortunately the jacket cover for this edition is not consistent with them.

Title:The Coelura
Author:Anne McCaffrey
Date published:1983
Genre:Science Fiction
Number of pages:156
Notes:This edition is illustrated by Ned Dameron.


Google Search