Corvus by Harold Johnson
Thistledown Press, 2015
George, the protagonist, is a somewhat disillusioned lawyer whose hobby is flying an “organic recreation vehicle (ORV)” – a hybrid that combines the characteristics of a crow with an ultralight. George crashes during a storm in the mountains near a First Nations village that has recouped its resilient “off grid” traditions and is thriving. His friend Lenore lives in an ashram that is developing organic farming techniques to offset the scorched earth resulting from earlier misuse of chemical fertilizers. A third character, Richard, is in trouble with the law as a political dissenter and is coping with the aftermath of the climate wars and a technological culture that is entertaining itself to death. Together they begin to see things from the more “timeless” perspective of the First Peoples in contrast to the earth and soul destroying culture of a technological society run amok.
As with much science fiction writing the plots are a bit thin and the language lacks soaring poetry but Corvus captures the right metaphors and conveys the look and feel of a counter-culture emerging from the darkness of catastrophe as indigenous cultures have so many times in the past. It is less dark than “Marrow Thieves” where First Peoples are hunted down for their ability to dream. In Corvus the indigenous villages are just ignored even as they contain the “teachings” pointing toward a more sustainable society.
It is a hopeful book in a time when hope is sometimes hard to come by.
As our understanding of indigenous cultures improves and we face a dystopian future of catastrophic climate changes, collapsing economic structures and increasingly superficial sources of meaning, stories that remind us of our deeper humanity and resilience of spirit may be essential to our continued survival as a species.
Reviewed by Bob Worcester, 2019