Children of the Rainbow

by Terence Green,
ISBN: 0771035500

Strange Attractors

by Tom Henighan,
ISBN: 0888783124

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Two for the Future
by John Degen

SINCE We live at a time when many of yesterday's science-fiction speculations have either been realized or shown to be ridiculous, it is interesting to take note of the classics, the lasting sci-fi stories, and recognize their common element. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey, Bradbury's Fahrenheit 45 1, and Wells's The Time Machine all concentrate less on the technological nuts and bolts of futurity than on the relative sameness of the human condition as humanity advances through time. Of course, these books are also blessed with very fine writing, that most essential of characteristics for any lasting work of fiction.

One author who seems to have taken note of this pattern is Terence M. Green. Green's latest work, Children of the Rainbow, resists narrow classification. As the plot involves a time traveller from the 21st century, the book is most definitely a work of speculative fiction, but Children of the Rainbow is less a look ahead than it is a retrospective. Gracefully and authoritatively written, the story involves several seemingly unrelated points in world history that, when the fabric of time is disturbed, combine to profoundly illustrate how all of our moments are somehow connected.

Utilizing a relatively new and untested method of time travel, Fletcher Christian IV attempts to jump back a century from 2072 and visit his ancestors on Pitcairn Island in 1972. Unfortunately for him, he has targeted a time in history when humanity's political will, scientific brilliance, and moral weakness have combined to tear a hole in time itself. Instead of landing on late 20th-century Pitcairn, Christian is marooned on a British penal island at the time of the early 19th century, where he takes the place of one of the prisoners, Bran Michael Dalton, who in turn is transported to Christian's intended destination.

Dalton's confusion about his sudden change of fortunes, not to mention the strange world into which he has been dropped, make for entertaining reading in the vein of Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver's Travels; but the book touches brilliance with its descriptions of Christian in prison. The passages in which Christian attempts to convince the prison warden that he is not the man they call Dalton, but in fact a traveller from the future, are artfully constructed. These discussions between 19th- and 2 1st-century representatives of the same historical continuum add a welcome psychological element to the overly familiar time-travel allegory. Green creates a unique forum for an investigation into the nature of human character and then, with wit and intellect, takes full advantage of his creation. Children of the Rainbow is a questioning novel, a book that wonders as much about the lessons of our past as about our possible future.

Another Canadian science-fiction writer, Tom Henighan, takes a more stereotypical approach to speculative fiction. Rather than work inside the very facts of our history, as Green does, Henighan takes his understanding of certain general - and usually unpleasant truths about humankind and considers how these truths might carry us into the future.

Strange Attractors is a collection of short stories, one of which, "Book of Tobit," is a novella. Written in a very straightforward style, these stories have an uncomfortable narrative distance to them, almost as if the author himself can't quite believe what is being suggested. At his most effective, in "Perfect Place, Boxcar," and "The Trophy," Henighan combines sly irony and some excellent descriptive work to create tales reminiscent of the best of Rod Serling's original "Twilight Zone." Often, though, the writing is hampered by moralism and melodrama, undermining the power of Henighan's obviously ingenious imagination. But "Book of Tobit" proves that Henighan is capable of maintaining a speculative conceit while also creating fuller, more believable characters and a more involved plot-line, and it hints at greater achievement in Henighan's future.


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