The Waterdancer's World
by L. Timmel Duchamp
Cover Artist: Swimmer by Kluva / Shutterstock;
Ice flowers background by ArTDi101 / Shutterstock
Review by Mel Jacob
Aqueduct Press ISBN/ITEM#: 9781619761094
Date: 01 October 2016
The Waterdancer's World by L. Timmel Duchamp explores the effects of settling humans on a less than satisfactory world and the pioneers who undergo hardships to inhabit such a place. The main attraction for settlement was the metal mines. Ultimately the descendants of the pioneers face the destruction of their society because of the greed of corporate interests.
The strange world of Frogmore had been settled for a millennium and the novel tells the history of the first settlers until drastic changes to the environment are to be implemented by off-worlders. The descendants will be forced to leave Frogmore. Personal journals of the early settlers, excerpts from histories by several different authors, official documents, and narratives from various points of view are used to provide insights into events and attitudes.
The gravity of Frogmore is considerably greater than that of Earth and initially required the use of exoskeletons until the humans were able to genetically adapt. In addition to the heavier gravity, the planet's atmosphere also contains microorganisms that combine into the Scrouge, which reduces the oxygen content of the air. However, it is also the source of the Mistflowers and their ethereal music so revered by the Frogmorians.
Initially, settlers volunteered to come to the planet hoping to find more freedom from the structured social environments of the other settled worlds. Among the early settlers, in addition to the miners, were surrogate mothers and infant caretakers. A new matriarchal society developed and adapted to conditions. Domes with antigravity pads also helped.
Inez Gauthier, daughter of the general who has governing oversight of Frogmore, is interested in encouraging the artists of Frogmore. Once Inez discovers Solstice, the Waterdancer, she is determined to add her to the Art Institute and encourage her to develop Waterdancing. She is fascinated with Solstice in almost a sexual way.
Inez is also a master at managing and increasing the family's assets. Prime among the activities are the mining of metals on Frogmore. A new proposal would end the Scrouge and increase the oxygen levels. It would also involve resettling the long-term settlers off-planet. A side-effect would mean an end to the Mistflowers, revered by the settlers in an almost religious way and an end to their current way of life. For Inez this is a minor inconvenience. For the settlers, it is a disaster.
Because of the switching between the past, the present, and the future, as well as from narrator to narrator, the novel can be confusing. The world building is well done, but it takes effort to piece it all together. Duchamp has published a variety of fiction and non-fiction and is the founder and publisher of Aqueduct Press.