Off the Shelf
By Marcus Pan
Alan Dean Foster isn't all sci-fi and fantasy.
Sometimes he's historically accurate and writes well-researched and believable
forays into our own world. So while Spellsinger embodies Foster's silly
side and Flinx is his anti-hero in the manner of Skywalker he has a very
serious side to him as well and this is prevalent in Maori, a story of New
Zealand's colonization starting in the days of the whalers.
We are introduced at first to Robert Coffin a captain
of his own trading ship and owner of Coffin House, an out-of-the-way general
store and supply house for seafaring men and whaling vessels. Also on ship,
hitching a ride home, is maori medicine man Tohuto, which at first light leaned
me to believe things were going to get mystical, sorcerous and fantastical
things that couldn't be further from the truth. This is a serious
historical drama, kiddies not for the lightning and fireball wielders of
Coffin House is based in Kororakea, the first European
settlement in New Zealand. Robert plies his trade between importing much needed
goods from the south islands and trading with the maori tribes indigenous to
the area. His business grows to be the largest there, second to Tull House, and
Maori takes us on his near life-long journey as a captain of ships, business
and men as a new settlement vies to survive against a more barbarian, yet maybe
not as immoral, people in a land distant from Coffins English roots.
Throughout this very long novel we are shown the ways of
colonization. The fights against maori resistance with the European settlers.
Battles with more viperous tribes and the burning of the original Kororakea.
The growth of the businessmen of the small town and relocation to Auckland. The
mistresses of Coffin that touched on different cultures mixed with a
latticework of personalities on a small island. While long indeed, Maori
is at its end very satisfying.
The novel culminates with the eruption of New Zealand's
triple-peaked Mount Tarawera volcano in 1886 which destroyed the village of
Tarawera, Coffin's last home, as well as the Pink and White Terraces of the
area and old Robert Coffin. With only an epilogue left, this brings
Maori to a close a long and arduous, but fully satisfying novel
with a strong level of authenticity and historical accuracy proving that Alan
Dean Foster isn't just another sci-fi hack, even if some of his other series
lend that rumor credence occasionally.
Maori by Alan Dean Foster
by Jim Gurney
Copyright © 1900 by Alan Dean Foster
An Ace Book
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