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Darkover Landfall Analysis

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Darkover Landfall’s structure is unusual. The exciting events and discoveries occur early; the last half of the book is an extended study of the colonists’ efforts to cope with them. Appropriate technology, a frequent series theme, is a survival issue in this novel. Within this framework, Bradley suggests that reproductive choice and, perhaps, women’s autonomy are luxuries made possible by high technology. Camilla is refused an abortion because the fragile settlement needs every baby that can be brought to term. This episode created furor within feminist science fiction. Joanna Russ wrote We Who Are About To . . . (1977), whose castaway protagonist chooses death over forced childbearing, in reply. Bradley’s argument is about the contingency of social rights, however, rather than being an antiabortion statement.

Although Darkover Landfall occurs earliest in the planet’s history, it is not the best introduction to the series. A reader unfamiliar with Darkover will not link its events with the resulting customs and myths. For example, Camilla is memorialized in Darkovan religion as a consort of Hastur, a demigod. The legend distorts her life, but it retains traces of falling from the stars and of sacrifice. Bradley suggests the early young adult books Star of Danger (1965) and The Planet Savers (1962) as good starting points. Another good introduction is the revised The Bloody Sun (1979). A pivotal novel in the series, it opens with a scene recognizable to any science-fiction reader—a spaceforce man fearing that his weird reactions to the planet will cost him his career. This leads into a rich brew of love, intrigue, and mystery built around his emerging laran powers.

The series became very popular and has inspired an active fandom, including younger writers who have gone on to turn their own worlds into published series. Darkover novels use fantasy staples, such as swordplay and psychic duels, as well as a depth of characterization almost unique in science fiction....

(The entire section is 481 words.)