Sue Parritt’s Pia and the Skyman is the sequel to Sannah and the Pilgrim (2014) and the second in a planned science fiction trilogy set in an Australia and Aotearoa (New Zealand) four centuries into the future. The third, The Skylines Alliance, is apparently underway.
It is a truism of SciFi that wherever/whenever the novel is set, the narrative deals with problems which are contemporary to the author. So early SciFi of the 1950s-1970s, the Golden Age as far as I am concerned, dealt with the Cold War and the aftermath of seemingly inevitable nuclear war, later SciFi (CyberPunk) dealt with computers and the growing underclass in Western societies, and today’s SciFi (or CliFi) deals with global warming and population movements.
Parritt writes on her website –
I was inspired by the continuing inhumane treatment of refugees seeking asylum in Australia and the government’s failure to adequately address climate change.
I want readers to grasp what is happening not only in contemporary Australia, but throughout the world with regard to refugees and the ongoing environmental degradation that poses increasing problems for humanity…
In ‘Pia and the Skyman,’ I focus on a tiny population forced to flee their home and the ramifications when a significant percentage are refused asylum due to unacceptable difference. By writing fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ‘ordinary’ people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable world.
The Australia and Aotearoa of Pia and the Skyman are ravished by drought, and coastal plains have been inundated by rising sea levels. An apartheid-like system is in place in Australia, with the Whites who of course retain power, although they are greatly impoverished compared with today, living on what remains of the arable southern and eastern coastal fringe; Browns, refugee populations from largely drowned Pacific Islands, are confined to the central desert; and Asians are in factory and farming villages in the north. The Indigenous population has apparently been wiped out by disease. The people of Aotearoa live mostly on the south island, and the northern part of the north island is a haven for Brown refugees from Australia.
Pia, a young woman, is the daughter of the eponymous Sannah of the previous title. She has been rescued from a desert prison by the ‘skyman’ and brought to Aotearoa where she is active in the Women’s Line, a Resistance/Underground Railroad-type organisation. Kaire, the skyman of the title, is a visitor from Skyz59, a remote space platform, settled some two centuries earlier. He uses his ‘inter-galactic’, 10 seater space vessel for trips between Australia and Aotearoa, neither of which have planes of their own.
I should say at this point that I haven’t read Sannah and the Pilgrim. I attempted to buy it after reading Lisa of ANZLL’s review (here) but my local bookshop could only source it from the US. Lisa was good enough to put me in touch with the author who sold me the copies I wanted and also kindly provided me with a review copy of Pia. However, I am pretty sure you can buy both books at Dymocks or from the publisher, Odyssey.
Pia and Kaire, become lovers early on (it is not regarded as remarkable that previously Kaire was Sannah’s, ie. Pia’s mother’s, lover), so their romance is a given rather than contributing to narrative tension. They undertake a series of adventures in Kaire’s spaceship, rescuing 5 women from an underground prison in the Australian desert; and on another occasion, leaving the ship hidden in scrub while they infiltrate the Asian zone, acting as White education officials, escaping from flash floods and arrest.
When Kaire receives a message recalling him to Skyz59, which is approaching the end of its working life, Pia determines to accompany him, in defiance of his instructions. The Aotearoans are willing to accept the hundreds of residents of the space station as refugees, and all Sky-ship pilots have been recalled from their various explorations to undertake their transport. But there is a problem, many of the people on Skyz59 have been created by cloning, rather than in the old-fashioned way, and clones are unacceptable on Earth. Kaire himself is a clone and Pia expects that once he has transported his consignment of refugees to Earth he will return to pick her up and they will spend what remains of their lives exploring the galaxies.
The Skyz59 people resolve the clone problem in their own way and Pia and Kaire, once more on Earth, have yet another adventure in northern Australia tracking down an informer in the Women’s Line network.
This is science fiction in the old way, with lots of action and only minimal characterisation. The science itself is a bit dodgy, with instantaneous communications over very large distances (although the great Le Guin ‘invented’ the ansible to deal with just this problem), and a space ship capable of inter-galactic flight being used for personal, sub-space transport*. But overall, I found Pia and the Skyman to be a fun read and the geo-political problems it addresses totally realistic. I do however suggest you read Sannah and the Pilgrim first.
Sue Parritt, Pia and the Skyman, Odyssey Books, Melbourne, 2016
Book 3, The Sky Lines Alliance, is due out in October 2016.
*Inter-galactic distances are measured in millions of light years and even the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is 30,000 light years away. While Mars for instance is, on average, 12.5 light minutes from Earth, making for 25 minute gaps between speakers even over this relatively short distance.
Sue Parrit’s blog here