In the Shadow of the Hills is a science fiction novel written by fellow Taumarunui author Cate Sutherland. Science fiction is not my usual fare and I had to re-awaken the younger Star Trek fan in me to enter Sutherland’s world with enthusiasm.
Sutherland’s world was worth entering. Her setting, the planet Ver Sek, is the best feature of this novel—imaginatively presented and developed—including living cities which grow and are not built; cities who nurture their inhabitants, adapting to suits their needs—personified in human form as well; even mating with human characters in order to create new cities.
And it is new cities which are needed as the refugees from the depreciating world of Yiron Sek settle in the main city with a plan of sending more. They are led by Landar, the rightful heir to the throne of Yiron Sek, and his daughter, Chira, who is the main character of the story. Their endeavours to prepare a hospitable environment for the inhabitants as well as manage the strife within the colony drive the plot of the story.
Another fine feature of the novel is the characters—most of whom are unique and plausible in their relationships. The dynamic between Landar and Chira is realistic and gives way to her relationship with City as naturally as you would expect as romance and expedient marriage is introduced. Sutherland uses some terrific names for her minor characters, including the faithful military leader, Hirone-Lest, the rebellious villain, Ossymian-Marn, and the pretender to the throne, Irian-Lor.
Cate Sutherland was a true fan of science fiction, not just for entertainment’s sake, but for the themes and commentaries on our own society. She skilfully weaves these into her narrative without being obvious or preachy. She enjoys telling a good yarn and makes it enjoyable for the reader too, trusting that the parallels will reveal themselves. I’m sure Isaac Asimov or Gene Roddenberry would be proud.
Buy In the Shadow of the Hills on Amazon.
Antony Millen is a Canadian living and writing in New Zealand and the author of Redeeming Brother Murrihy: The River to Hiruharama and Te Kauhanga: A Tale of Space(s).