The Crystal Cosmos by Rhys Hughes
PS Publishing (xxx) $20.00
Let’s just say it out front: Rhys Hughes is one dang weird writer. Moreover, he’s a writer who is differently weird from story to story. But he is also interesting from story to story, and that’s what matters. This new book, a substantial novella, reminded me of writers like Lionel Fanthorpe, Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer, John C. Wright, and L. Sprague de Camp— for different reasons, and mostly for good reasons even if the stories I was reminded of weren’t always very good. As it turns out, Hughes was intended readers to think mainly of Ian Watson— signaled for instance by the spaceship names in the book, taken from the titles of Watson’s novels. Bottom line—it surprises, it holds the reader’s interest—it just works. And it’s dang weird.
A man named Cankar, a representative of the non-UN bloc of countries in a vaguely specified future, discovers a “planet” that seems all diamond. In order to establish a claim to it, he must take a representative of a sort of environmental “Trust” with him to make sure the planet isn’t inhabited or otherwise in need of protection. So he is joined by a Greek woman named Sappho— it is suggested that perhaps her name makes her immune to Cankar’s manly attractions.
Meanwhile, a goatherd named Daphnis is getting in trouble for advancing views contrary to the established views of the philosophers in what seems a version of Ancient Greece, but which we soon realize is in fact a “planet” of sorts inside the diamond sphere Cankar has discovered. It seems Daphnis has discovered, by observation, that the world is flat, the planets and the Sun rotate around the world, the music of the spheres is real, etc.—heresy according to the philosophers, who hold views consonant with our contemporary scientists. The joke, of course, is that inside their “crystal cosmos”, Daphnis is entirely correct.
Naturally, Cankar and Sappho arrive just in time to disrupt Daphnis’s trial on charges of heresy— which works out rather well for him. How this affects his relationship with his beloved (who betrayed him), and how it affects the future of his little world, not to mention what all this means for the Earth from which Cankar and Sappho have come, is all revealed—though it’s not exactly the point of the book. I’m not precisely sure what the point of the book is—nor that it needs one. Hughes has plenty of fun, and advances plenty of clever notions, and the reader has fun too.
Also, I would be remiss not to mention the delightful long introduction by Michael Bishop, or Miguel Obispo—pretty much a short story in itself, about a certain Rhys Hughes, or Huw Rees, and Obispo’s attempts to interview him, etc. Not necessarily worth the price of the book by itself, but certainly a wonderful bonus.—978-1905834556