Friday, June 20, 2008

Robert Sheckley's "A Wind Is Rising" (as by Finn O'Donnevan) (short story, science fiction, free): Camping on a world with constant hurricanes

I guess this would have been a much more interesting story in the hands of Hal Clement - life on a world with wind speeds that make the worst hurricanes on earth look like mild breeze. But I wasn't bored, though occasionally I found it a bit draggy.

I'm a bit skeptical about the plausibility of some of the wind effects described. That was what made me compare it with Hal Clement stories.

Story summary.

Carella I is a planet somewhere, already inhabited by intelligent beings. Early surveys of Advance Exploration Corps have found it potentially human inhabitable. So they set up an observation station there with 2 "observers" - Clayton & Nerishev. An observer's "job was to sit tight on a planet newly opened .. & checked out by a drone camera crew. All he had to do on this planet was stoically endure discomfort & skillfully keep himself alive. After a year of this, the relief ship would remove him & note his report. On the basis of the report, further action would or would not be taken."

Station also employs several native Carellans. We aren't told if there was any native opposition to human station; natives seem quite cooperative. Human/native interactions in the story sometimes made me smile - their worldviews on weather are rather different.

Eight months of the observers' 1 year have gone by (earth year rather than local year?). Much of the story is about a particular storm currently raging, heaviest since the two humans landed there. Nerishev was inside the station, Clayton outside in an armored vehicle that was no match for local 190+ miles/hour winds. Both eventually survive, but Clayton is rather battered. Station building is also badly damaged after being hit by boulders dislodged by the wind.

After surviving this worst-yet storm, humans learn this is just the beginning of the really bad storm season when even the wind hardened natives seek out protected shelters!

Fact sheet.

First published: Galaxy Science Fiction, July 1957.
Rating: B
Download full text from Internet Archive.
Included in Ellen Datlow's Sci Fiction classics.
Related: All stories of Robert Sheckley.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the link! My husband and I have been quoting the last line for fifty years but couldn't remember where it came from.

Alvin Hill said...

A nice summary and analysis. I agree the story might have benefited from a bit of Hal Clement's technical sophistication, particularly if it were much longer; but as a classical SF short story, it works quite nicely as written. I didn't recall that Robert Sheckley wrote it, but I'm not surprised. Sheckley was an imaginative and creative writer, many of whose ideas (like "The Tenth Victim")have been borrowed in other venues. I enjoyed the story, when I first encountered it in Galaxy and I'm grateful to you for reminding me of it here.