Shaman [NOOK Book]

Overview

Kim Stanley Robinson, the New York Times bestselling author of science fiction masterworks such as the Mars trilogy and 2312, has, on many occasions, imagined our future. Now, in SHAMAN, he brings our past to life as never before.
There is Thorn, a shaman himself. He lives to pass down his wisdom and his stories -- to teach those who would follow in his footsteps.
There is ...
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Shaman

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Overview

Kim Stanley Robinson, the New York Times bestselling author of science fiction masterworks such as the Mars trilogy and 2312, has, on many occasions, imagined our future. Now, in SHAMAN, he brings our past to life as never before.
There is Thorn, a shaman himself. He lives to pass down his wisdom and his stories -- to teach those who would follow in his footsteps.
There is Heather, the healer who, in many ways, holds the clan together.
There is Elga, an outsider and the bringer of change.
And then there is Loon, the next shaman, who is determined to find his own path. But in a world so treacherous, that journey is never simple -- and where it may lead is never certain.
SHAMAN is a powerful, thrilling and heartbreaking story of one young man's journey into adulthood -- and an awe-inspiring vision of how we lived thirty thousand years ago.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

In his latest effort, Kim Stanley Robinson startles us by turning back the clock tens of thousands of years. The Nebula Award winning author of 2312 asks us to join in the rituals and listen to the stories of a Cro Magnon shaman master, but this absorbing Ice Age novel is no dreamy snow globe fiction. The realm of Thom, Heather, and Loon is about to experience changes and challenges that not even their evocative cave paintings can adequately convey. Imaginative science fiction with a scientific feel; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Library Journal
This book proves once again that Robinson's (2312; Antarctica; The Years of Salt ane Rice; "Mars" trilogy) fascination with the human condition and mankind's journey transcends easy genre labels. This journey begins in undated prehistory when ice still covers the land to the north. Loon begins his wander naked and alone in the cold fourth month of the year at the new moon. By surviving and returning to camp in style at the full moon he becomes a man of the Wolf pack. His apprenticeship to Thorn, the pack's shaman, also intensifies. At the great annual gathering of many packs, Loon meets and falls in love with Elga. The following summer, after the two have married, Elga is kidnapped by a clan of northerners who live between the sea and ice. There is a natural cadence to these lives that is reflected in Robinson's prose, whether describing grand adventures, intimate moments, or the work of the pack through the wheel of the seasons. VERDICT Despite all his previous accolades, this may be Robinson's best work to date, focused so sharply as it is on the simplest way of being human. His fans as well as fans of Jean Auel or those who simply enjoy a great wilderness tale will be delighted.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids
Publishers Weekly
Robinson (2312) makes a shift from near-future SF to prehistorical fiction with this entertaining but slight ice-age bildungsroman. Loon, a young man on the verge of adulthood, marks his birthday by surviving alone in the wild for two weeks. Returning to his “pack,” he learns various practical and artistic skills. He’s often as rebellious as he is studious, and as driven by teen hormones as any contemporary teen hero (using prehistoric safe-sex methods to avoid sowing his wild oats), but he matures when he falls in love with Elga, a girl from another pack. After their love leads to her pregnancy, they encounter complications that could drive them from Loon’s pack and his friends. Robinson creates a rich world, but there’s not much new (or much at all, really) in the underlying story, which is predictable right down to the final line. Fans of the author’s smooth prose and intense research will find enough of both, but the book is far outclassed by both Robinson’s earlier works and other prehistory novels. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
"2312 is a monumental tour-de-force that re-imagines the solar system in ways no one has envisioned before. Whether comparing the compositions of Beethoven to those of skylarks and warblers, or describing a life-threatening sunrise on Mercury, Robinson fills 2312 with joy and exuberance, danger and fear, and the steadily mounting suspense of a mystery that spans the planets. This is the finest novel yet from the author who gave us the Mars Trilogy and GALILEO'S DREAM. An amazing accomplishment."—Robert Crais

"Intellectually engaged and intensely humane in a way SF rarely is, exuberantly speculative in a way only the best SF can be, this is the work of a writer at or approaching the top of his game."—Iain M. Banks on 2312

"Robinson's extraordinary completeness of vision results in a magnificently realized, meticulously detailed future in which social and biological changes keep pace with technological developments."—Publishers Weekly on 2312

" In his vibrant, often moving new novel, "2312," Robinson's extrapolation is hard-wired to a truly affecting personal love story. [...] Perhaps Robinson's finest novel, "2312" is a treasured gift to fans of passionate storytelling; readers will be with Swan and Wahram in the tunnel long after reaching the last page."—LA Times

"Robinson's expert world building and lyrical prose offer Jack London-esque pleasures as they depict the stark beauties of the icy landscape - it's desolation, dangers and the desperate choices it forces people to make when pushed to the edge of existence. Richly detailed."—Kirkus

"This novel bears the markings of Robinson's consummate skill with a sort of anthropological fiction...Spectacular world building."—Booklist

"A seriously composed and compelling novel about prehistoric life...some of the most intelligent entertainment you can find."—NPR Books

"A thrilling journey through an age of ice and stone - one of Kim Stanley Robinson's best!"—Greg Bear

"This book proves once again that Robinson's fascination with the human condition and mankind's journey transcends easy genre labels...Despite all his previous accolades, this may be Robinson's best work to date, focused so sharply as it is on the simplest way of being human."—Library Journal

"The novel is an amazing piece of recreation, vividly evoking the deprivations, animalistic beliefs and day-to-day struggles of a primitive tribe."—Financial Times (UK)

Booklist
"This novel bears the markings of Robinson's consummate skill with a sort of anthropological fiction...Spectacular world building."
NPR Books
"A seriously composed and compelling novel about prehistoric life...some of the most intelligent entertainment you can find."
Financial Times (UK)
"The novel is an amazing piece of recreation, vividly evoking the deprivations, animalistic beliefs and day-to-day struggles of a primitive tribe."
Iain M. Banks on 2312
"Intellectually engaged and intensely humane in a way SF rarely is, exuberantly speculative in a way only the best SF can be, this is the work of a writer at or approaching the top of his game."
Robert Crais
"2312 is a monumental tour-de-force that re-imagines the solar system in ways no one has envisioned before. Whether comparing the compositions of Beethoven to those of skylarks and warblers, or describing a life-threatening sunrise on Mercury, Robinson fills 2312 with joy and exuberance, danger and fear, and the steadily mounting suspense of a mystery that spans the planets. This is the finest novel yet from the author who gave us the Mars Trilogy and GALILEO'S DREAM. An amazing accomplishment."
LA Times
" In his vibrant, often moving new novel, "2312," Robinson's extrapolation is hard-wired to a truly affecting personal love story. [...] Perhaps Robinson's finest novel, "2312" is a treasured gift to fans of passionate storytelling; readers will be with Swan and Wahram in the tunnel long after reaching the last page."
Greg Bear
"A thrilling journey through an age of ice and stone - one of Kim Stanley Robinson's best!"
Kirkus Reviews
Robinson has tackled everything from terraforming to alternate history, so his decision to write a prehistoric bildungsroman isn't that surprising, although the narrowness of its scope might be. Loon is your typical rebellious adolescent, except that he's extremely resourceful when he's dumped naked into the wilderness as part of a maturity ritual. Afterward, he officially becomes the shaman's apprentice, a role he has mixed feelings about: He's not very good at memorizing the pack's ancient stories, but he has a real gift for cave painting. He gains the experiences he needs to grow into the role after he and his wife, Elga, escape from a rival pack and make a perilous journey home. Robinson's (2312, 2012, etc.) expert worldbuilding and lyrical prose offer Jack London-esque pleasures as they depict the stark beauties of the icy landscape--its desolation, dangers and the desperate choices it forces people to make when pushed to the edge of existence. A map and a bibliography would help underscore the research Robinson assuredly did when writing this book, but it's doubtful they would explain why characters oddly and jarringly say "mama mia" so often. Richly detailed but with a disappointingly modest plot from an author renowned for ambitious works.
The Barnes & Noble Review

In A. E. van Vogt's The Weapon Shops of Isher, one character has the grand misfortune to become unmoored in time. He begins swinging like a pendulum, from far past to distant future, accumulating more energy with each oscillation. Only a single outcome is possible: at the terminus of one swing, he will explode, more or less initiating the Big Bang.

But the seesaw would end in the very remote past, with the release of the stupendous temporal energy he had been accumulating with each of those monstrous swings. He would not witness but he would aid in the formation of the planets.

It's starting to look like Kim Stanley Robinson is on that same cosmic ride, with similarly large and laudable results. In 2009, he gave us Galileo's Dream, which was set — admittedly, with futuristic segments — mainly in the historical past era of its eponymous scientist. Then in 2012 came 2312, which brought us to that far-off future date. And now we get Shaman, delving back into prehistoric climes. If Robinson's thematic pattern continues, we should vault into truly intergalactic realms in his next outing. Hopefully, he has many more swings of the literary seesaw before he goes off in a final fireball of glory!

Tales concerning "the origin of man," to employ the thematic signifier used by The Science Fiction Encyclopedia, have been part of the SF genre since its earliest days. Once anthropology and geology had opened up the pre-record keeping darkness of humanity's long, slow, sustained infancy as suitable grounds for speculation, writers began trying to imagine human existence as it must have been with only stone-age technology. H. G. Wells and Jack London offered early efforts, and subsequent decades saw the occasional companionable tale.

But by the time Norman Spinrad's story "The Age of Invention" appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in July 1966, the subgenre had devolved to parody.

One morning, having nothing better to do, I went to visit my cousin Roach. Roach lived in one of those lizard- infested caves on the East Side of the mountain. Roach did not hunt bears. Roach did not grow grain. Roach spent his daylight hours throwing globs of bearfat, bison chips and old rotten plants against the walls of his cave.

Roach said that he was an Artist. He said it with a capital A. (Even though writing has not yet been invented.)

As I approached the mouth of Roach's cave, I smelled pungent smoke. In fact, the cave was filled with this smoke. In the middle of the cave sat Roach and his woman. They were burning a big pile of weeds and inhaling the smoke.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

"Turning on, baby," said Roach. "I've just invented it."
And so the mode languished, until 1980, when Jean Auel's bestselling The Clan of the Cave Bear revived the serious theme, inspiring countless imitators. Of course, fresh scientific findings, insights and speculations about our ancestral beginnings were just as deeply instrumental in the renaissance.

You can count on Robinson for two things here: to be utterly au courant with the latest academic findings on our ancestors; and to provide engagingly dramatic and empathetic embodiments of that data. In other words, Shaman provides a resonant, imaginative, quietly powerful story while still honoring as much of the reality of the past as we have yet discerned.

Our hero is Loon, an adolescent lad in training to become a shaman, under the tutelage of sour old Thorn. (Their relationship carries echoes of T. H. White's Wart and Merlyn, with some metaphorical talk of Thorn even living backward, like Merlyn, from future to past.) We first see Loon on his transitional wander ordeal, sent naked into the cold wilderness to survive and experience a guiding vision. Robinson mixes humor, pathos, suspense and ingenuity in a naturalistic treatment of the quest. Immediately, Loon's bright mentality and his environment both emerge in sharp relief. When Loon returns to his "pack," he has set a bold foot onto the trail toward his mature standing in the tribe.

Subsequent chapters enlarge Loon's relations with the highly individuated members of his extended pack, in a round of quotidian and seasonal doings. Included are relations with "the old ones" or "lunkheads," who can be no other than our Neanderthal peers. Nature is evoked with poetry and precision. Loon begins to take on more duties and virtues of a shaman, discovering that his affinities are with art (shades of Spinrad's satire!), and with the bardic poems that might recall to the modern reader Hiawatha's stanzas.

By midpoint of the book Loon is mated with his heart's desire, a woman from outside the pack named Elga. They have a child. Then, all their calm and peace is overturned with one dramatic occurrence. Most of the rest of the book is spent in a struggle to regain freedom and safety and domestic bliss. After much travail, Loon emerges deepened and strengthened, with a coda remaining that involves Thorn and the tribe and a furthering of Loon's art.

This type of novel, done right, has to walk a tightrope between polarities. Our ancestors must seem alien-yet allied and sympathetic with our own concerns: different in mind and abilities and sensibilities, yet harboring the same essential eternal spark of our species. Spirituality must be depicted, yet balanced with the mundane. The life and culture of our forebears must be seen as worthy on their own merits, yet somehow proleptic of our "civilized" glories to come, without teleological fixity. The tribe must live a life of tradition — yet innovation and invention must have a place. The language couching all this cannot devolve into pidgin childishness, yet should not be overly ornate or too sophisticated and rococo. Simple yet with gravitas. The protagonist must be exceptional, yet representative.

Robinson deftly avoids all these pitfalls and hits all the high notes. The reader engages deeply with the characters and their world while still squirming with a delicious sense of estrangement.

From time to time in the book, a first-person voice interrupts:
I am the third wind
I come to you
When you have nothing left
When you can't go on
This numen blows through those who can hear it today just as strongly as it did 30,000 years ago. And Robinson helps us all to hear it.

Author of several acclaimed novels and story collections, including Fractal Paisleys, Little Doors, and Neutrino Drag, Paul Di Filippo was nominated for a Sturgeon Award, a Hugo Award, and a World Fantasy Award — all in a single year. William Gibson has called his work "spooky, haunting, and hilarious." His reviews have appeared in The Washington Post, Science Fiction Weekly, Asimov's Magazine, and The San Francisco Chronicle.

Reviewer: Paul Di Filippo

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316235570
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Publication date: 9/3/2013
  • Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 75,061
  • File size: 992 KB

Meet the Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is a New York Times bestseller and winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and Locus awards. He is the author of more than twenty books, including the bestselling Mars trilogy and the critically acclaimed Forty Signs of Rain, The Years of Rice and Salt and 2312. In 2008, he was named a "Hero of the Environment" by Time magazine, and he works with the Sierra Nevada Research Institute. He lives in Davis, California.
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Read an Excerpt

Shaman


By Kim Stanley Robinson

Orbit

Copyright © 2013 Kim Stanley Robinson
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-09807-6



CHAPTER 1

LOON'S WANDER


We had a bad shaman.

This is what Thorn would say whenever he was doing something bad himself. Object to whatever it was and he would pull up his long gray braids to show the mangled red nubbins surrounding his earholes. His shaman had stuck bone needles through the flesh of his boys' ears and then ripped them out sideways, to help them remember things. Thorn when he wanted the same result would flick Loon hard on the ear and then point at the side of his own head, with a tilted look that said, You think you have it bad?

Now he had Loon gripped by the arm and was hauling him along the ridge trail to Pika's Rock, on the overlook between Upper and Lower Valleys. Late afternoon, low clouds rolling overhead, brushing the higher ridges and the moor, making a gray roof to the world. Under it a little line of men on a ridge trail, following Thorn on shaman's business. It was time for Loon's wander.

—Why tonight? Loon protested.—A storm is coming, you can see it.

—We had a bad shaman.

And so here they were. The men all gave Loon a hug, grinning ruefully at him and shaking their heads. He was going to have a miserable night, their looks said. Thorn waited for them to finish, then croaked the start of the good-bye song:

This is how we always start It's time to be reborn a man Give yourself to Mother Earth She will help you if you ask


—If you ask nicely enough, he added, slapping Loon on the shoulder. Then a lot of laughing, the men's eyes sardonic or encouraging as they divested him of his clothes and his belt and his shoes, everything passed over to Thorn, who glared at him as if on the verge of striking him. Indeed when Loon was entirely naked and without possessions Thorn did strike him, but it was just a quick backhand to the chest.—Go. Be off. See you at full moon.

If the sky were clear, there would have been the first sliver of a new moon hanging in the west. Thirteen days to wander, therefore, starting with nothing, just as a shaman's first wander always started. This time with a storm coming. And in the fourth month, with snow still on the ground.

Loon kept his face blank and stared at the western horizon. To beg for a month's delay would be undignified, and anyway useless. So Loon looked past Thorn with a stony gaze and began to consider his route down to the Lower Valley creekbed, where knots of trees lined the creek. Being barefoot made a difference, because the usual descent from Pika's Rock was very rocky, possibly so rocky he needed to take another way. First decision of many he had to get right.—Friend Raven there behind the sky, he chanted aloud,—lead me now without any tricks!

—Good luck getting Raven to help, Thorn said. But Loon was from the raven clan and Thorn wasn't, so Loon ignored that and stared down the slope, trying to see a way. Thorn slapped him again and led the other men back down the ridge. Loon stood alone, the wind cutting into him. Time to start his wander.

But it wasn't clear which way to get down. For a time it seemed like he might freeze there, might never start his life's journey.

So I came up in him and gave him a little lift from within.

I am the third wind.

He took off down the rocks. He looked back once to show his teeth to Thorn, but they were out of sight down the ridge. Off he plunged, flinging the thought of Thorn from him. Under his feet the broken gritstone was flecked with pock snow, which collected in dimples and against nobbles in a pattern that helped him see where to step. Go as agile as a cat, down rock to rock, hands ready to grab and help down little jumps. His toes chilled and he abandoned them to their cold fate, focused on keeping his hands warm. He would need his hands down in the trees. It began to snow, just a first little pricksnow. The slope had big snow patches that were easier on his feet than the rocks.

He tightened his ribs and pushed his heat out into his limbs and skin, grunting until he blazed a little, and the pricksnow melted when it touched him. Sometimes the only heat to be had is in hurry.

He clambered down and across the boulder-choked ravine seaming the floor of Lower Valley, across the little stream. On the other side he was able to run up the thin forest floor, which was all too squishy, as the ground was wet with rain and snowmelt. Here he avoided the patches of snow. First day of the fourth month: it was going to be trouble to make a fire. The night would be ever so much more comfortable if he could make a fire.

The upper end of Lower Valley was a steep womb canyon. A small cluster of spruce and alder surrounded the spring there, which started the valley's creek. There he would find shelter from the wind, and branches for clothing, and under the trees there wouldn't be much snow left. He hurried up to this grove, careful not to stub his senseless toes.

In the little copse around the spring he tore at live spruce branches and broke several off, cursing their wetness, but even damp their needles would hold some of his heat against him. He wove two spruce branches together and stuck his head through a middle gap in the weave, making it into a rough cloak.

Then he broke off a dead bit of brush pine root to serve as the base of his firestarter. Near the spring he found a good rock to use as a chopper, and with it cut a straight dead alder branch for his firestick. His fingers were just pliable enough to hold the rock. Otherwise he didn't feel particularly cold, except in his feet, which were pretending not to be there. The black mats of spruce needles under the trees were mostly free of snow. He crouched under one of the biggest trees and forced his toes into the mat of needles and wiggled them as hard as he could. When they began to burn a little he pulled them out and went looking for duff. Even the best fire kit needs some duff to burn.

He reached into the center of dead spruce logs, feeling for duff or punk. He found some punk that was only a little damp, then broke off handfuls of dead twigs tucked under the protection of larger branches. The twigs were damp on their outsides, but dry inside; they would burn. There were some larger dead branches he could break off too. The grove had enough dead wood to supply a fire once it got going. It was a question of duff or punk. Neither spruce nor alder rotted to a good punk, so he would have to be lucky, or maybe find some ant- eaten wood. He got on his knees and started grubbing around under the biggest downed trees, avoiding the snow, turning over bigger branches and shoving around in the dirt trying to find something. He got dirty to the elbows, but then again that would help keep him warm.

Which might matter, as he could not find any dry punk, or any duff at all. He squeezed water out of one very rotten mass of wood, but the brown goo that remained in his hand resembled dead moss or mullein, and was still damp. The firestick's rough tip would never light such shit.

—Please, he said to the grove. He begged its forgiveness for cursing as he had approached it.—Give me some punk, please goddess.

Nothing. It became too cold for him to keep kneeling on the wet ground digging in downed logs. To make some heat in him he got up and danced. With this effort he could warm his hands, and it was important they not go numb like his feet had. Oh, a fire would make the night so much more comfortable! Surely something could be found here that would burn under the heat of his firestick's tip!

Nothing. His belt contained in its fold many little gooseskin bags in which there were spark flints, dry moss, firestick, and base. Dressed and carrying all his things, he could have survived this night and the fortnight to follow in style. Which was why he had been sent out naked: the point of the wander was to prove you could start with nothing but yourself, and not just survive but prosper. He needed to come back into camp on the night of the full moon in good style.

But first he had to get through this night. He began to work hard in his dance, throwing his arms around, spinning his hands in big circles. He sang a hot song and wiggled all over. After doing this for a while, everything but his feet began to burn. But he was also getting tired. He tried to find a balance between the cold and his efforts, walking in a tight circle while also inspecting the forest floor for likely punk and duff shelters. Nothing!

In every grove some wood will burn.

This was one of the sayings that Heather often repeated, though seldom when talking about fire. Loon said it aloud, emphatically, beseechingly:—In every grove some wood will burn! But on this night he wasn't convinced. It only made him mad.

Dig!

He went at the underside of a log which had broken over another one in its fall, a long time ago. They were two crossing mounds of dirt, almost; not an impossible source. But at this moment, wet through and through. And cold.

When he saw how it was, he beat his fist on the soft wet logs. Then he had to start walking in circles again.

Later, more digging into another log gained him only a knot that was still hard, with two spurs extending away from it at an angle much like the angle needed to make a spear thrower. He replaced his first firestarter base with this flat knot, which was better. His alder firestick still looked good. All was ready, if only he had something dry enough to catch fire.

And if only it would stop raining so hard. For a while it pelted down, cold enough to be a little sleety, and all on a gusty wind. In the hard gusts it was like getting hit with cold sand. He simply had to take shelter, and so he crawled under a spruce with big branches right against the ground, where he could snuggle in tight around the trunk and feel only a few drips on him, a few tickles of wind. The spruce needles were scratchy and the ground was cold, but he flexed his shoulder up and down, and sang a hot song and swore vengeance against Thorn. Talk about bad shamans!

But all boys have to become men one way or another. Their wanders had to be trials of skill and endurance. Hunters' wanders were just as bad. And other packs' shamans insisted on even harder trials, it was said.

Loon banished Thorn again. He tested all the branches at the bottom of the spruce. If a dead one could be broken, a dead one well dried but still a little resiny, possibly he could pulverize a spot in it with a rock point and make a mash of splinters fine enough to catch fire under the spin of the firestick. Worth a try, and the effort itself would help keep him warm.

But it turned out there didn't seem to be a branch around the bottom of this tree that he could break.

When the rain let off, he squirmed back out and crawled around under the other spruces looking for such a branch. His hands were so cold he could scarcely grasp the branches to test them.

After a while he had broken off a few likely-looking branches. If he could get a fire started in one of them, the others would be good wood to feed to it.

He found an adequate hearth rock, and a better smasher rock. He took the best one of his dead dry spruce branches and placed it on the hearth, then hit it with the smasher. It resisted, and it was clear it would take a while to get it right, but it seemed promising. Smash smash smash. He had to be more careful than usual not to catch a finger, his hands were so clumsy. Once two years before he had smashed a fingertip, and it was still fat and a little numb at the end, its flat claw lined with grooves. He called that finger Fatty. So he hit his smasher on the side of the broken branch very carefully, once or twice hitting the hearth instead. A spark or two from those accidents made him long for his flint firestrikers. A few scattered sparks were not going to be enough to do it on a night like this. The wet wind whooshed its laughter at him, loud in the trees.

Eventually a spot on the side of his target branch was squashed into a splay of splinters, perfectly dry. He sat cross-legged with his body arched over the branch, and it seemed like the mash of splinters might burn. Breathing hard, warm except for his feet, he crawled under the best of the spruces in his grove and arranged his new kit around him. Smashed branch on the hearth rock, held there between his feet; firestick placed almost upright in the mash of splinters on the branch, held at its tilt between his palms. All set: spin the firestick back and forth.

Back and forth, back and forth between his hands, gently pushing the point of the stick down into the branch. Back and forth, back and forth. His palms ran down the stick with the force of his pushing down, and when they reached the lower end of the stick he had to grasp it with one hand, put the other against the top, and move up and catch it and begin over again, with as little a pause as he could manage. Meanwhile it kept raining outside the shelter of the spruce, and under it, even right against the trunk, drips were dripping. Really it began to look impossible, given the conditions. But he didn't want to admit that. It would get an awful lot colder the moment he admitted that.

After a long time, maybe a fist or more, he had to give up, at least on this branch. The mash of splinters was a bit too massy, and after a while, a little damp. He could get the spot just under the firestick so hot that it slightly burned his fingertip to touch it, and the splinters around that spot had even blackened a little, but they would not burst into flame.

Loon sat there. This was going to be a hard thing to tell Thorn about, assuming he survived to tell the tale. The old sorcerer would flick him on the ears for sure. You had to be able to start a fire, anytime, anywhere; the worse conditions were, the more important it got. Thorn, like most of the shamans at the corroboree, was exceptionally good with fire, and had spent a lot of time with Loon and the other kids, teaching them the tricks. He had put a firestick to their forearms and spun it, to teach them how hot the spinning got. Eventually Loon had learned how to make fire no matter how the old man complicated the task. But there had always been some dry duff, one way or another.

Now he crawled out from under the spruce and stood up, sobbing with frustration, and danced until the cold was held off him by a thin envelope of sweat. When the rain let up a little, he steamed. Already he was hungry, but there was nothing for it. Time to chew on a pebble and think about other things. Chew a pebble and dance in the rain. Cold or not, this was his wander. When daylight came at last he would find better shelter, find some dry duff, find an abri or some smaller overhang. Begin outfitting himself for his return at full moon. He would walk into camp fully clothed, belly full, spear in hand! Clothed in lion skins! Beartooth necklace draped around his neck! He saw it all inside his eyes. He shouted the story of it at the night.

After a while he sat again under the best spruce, his head on his knees, arms wrapped around his legs. Then he got back out and shuffled around in the grove, looking for a better tuck, finding one after another and testing them. If they were good, he added them to a growing little round of camps, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. He chanted for long stretches, cursed Thorn from time to time. May your pizzle fall off, may a lion eat you ... Then also from time to time he would shout things out loud.—It's cold! Thorn would sometimes howl his thoughts that way, using old words from the shamans' language, words that sounded like the things themselves: Esh var kalt! Esh var k-k-k-kaaaal-TEE!

He stubbed a big toe and only felt it in the bone; the flesh was numb. More curses. May the ravens shit on you, may your babies die ... Lie on the ground under one big spruce, only his kneecaps and toes and the palms of hands and his forehead touching the earth. Push himself up and down with his arms, staying rigid. If only he could fuck the earth to get warm, but it was too cold, he couldn't get his poor pizzle to antler, it was as numb as his toes, and would hurt like crazy when it next warmed up, prickle and burn till he cried. Maybe if he thought of that girl from the Lion pack, a raven like him, therefore forbidden to him, supposedly, but they had made eyes anyway, and it would warm him to think of plunging her. Or Sage, from his own pack.

That line of thought trapped some time: seeing it all inside his eyelids, seeing her spread her legs to him. Be there inside her kolby, forget this cold rain. Her kolby, her baginaren, her vixen. Start a little fire behind his belly button, get his prong to spurt. But it was too cold. He could only mash the poor flesh around and make it burn a little, warm it in the hope it would not get frostbit. That would be so bad.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson. Copyright © 2013 Kim Stanley Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Orbit.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 5, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    I hated the first half of this book. Slowly introduced character

    I hated the first half of this book. Slowly introduced characters dispersed with a lot of detail about Stone Age life made this story plod along. Once I finished the book, I saw the intent of the analogy but it was hard to stay with the story to get to that point. The details are kind of cool but I wish they were better dispersed through the plot.

    The lovely passages about women, and how men should treat women, kept me going through the first half of the book. I wish these ideas (for example: the notion that all women are beautiful, not for being perfect but for being flawed) expressed in these passages were more common in our society.

    Then, somewhere in the middle of the book, the plot appears and I'm sucked into the story. I don't want to give away spoilers but the second half of the book was easier to read. I finished it in one sitting, after taking a week to get through the first half of the book.

    If you would like visuals of the cave paintings that are mentioned in the book, then look up Chauvet Cave and use the photographs as illustrations. The author used these cave paintings for inspiration.

    I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for a review.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2014

    Beautiful

    Very nicely written. Enjoyed reading the language; story is good.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2014

    A little too obsessed with bodily fluids, bodily functions and b

    A little too obsessed with bodily fluids, bodily functions and body parts. At first it wasn't an issue but when it kept going on and on, chapter after chapter it got to be too much. Very slow start to the story. Seems overly burdened with detail.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2013

    Boy Of The Painted Cave

    Justin Denzel. Only 95 pages. Oddly similair. Not saying its a rip off....

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 16, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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