The first coming was the Man:
The second was Fire to burn Him;
The third was water to drown the Fire;
The fourth is the Bird of Dawning.
Twenty years have passed since the martyrdom of the Boy-piper at York, twenty years in which his legacy, the movement of Kinship, has challenged the tyranny of the Church Militant in Britain’s seven island kingdoms.
Now his namesake, Tom, bearing the Boy’s own pipes and perhaps himself imbued with the spirit of the White Bird, is wandering Europe in company with the girl, Witchet. But disaster overtakes them and Tom, in a furry of vengeance, breaks his vow of Kinship.
A terrible path lies before him, one that transcends his own world. As he travels it, Tom must come to understand the true nature of the wild White Bird, of The Bride of Time and her Child, and of the Song the Star Born sang.
In the year 25,000 AD
When John Martels returned to consciousness he found himself the Delphic Oracle of a world far different from the Twentieth Century. Humanity has risen and fallen three times and was back once again in a semi-primative state.
He shared his oracular powers with a mind and a device left over from the last Rebirth, but the real problem was not rebuilding civilization, it was that another genus of creatures had arisen to claim inheritance of the world – the evolved. Strangely intelligent birds, whose priority was the elimination of the world’s former masters.
The problem of man versus bird, complicated by the question of John’s personal survival, presents a canvas worthy of the diverse talents of the author of A Case of Conscience and Cities in Flight.
From the vaults of the SF Gateway, the most comprehensive digital library of classic SFF titles ever assembled, comes an ideal introduction to one of the unique voices of British science fiction, John Middleton Murry, Jr, who wrote his best work under the pen name Richard Cowper.
The son of the famous critic John Middleton Murry, Cowper announced himself to the science fiction world in 1967 with BREAKTHROUGH, which found favour for a subtlety and richness of characterisation not seen in most contemporary SF. The idea of a transformed future England became his signature leitmotif and it is this theme that informs the Corlay tales contained in this omnibus. This is the complete Corlay sequence, featuring introductory novella ‘PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN’ and novels THE ROAD TO CORLAY, A DREAM OF KINSHIP and A TAPESTRY OF TIME.
THE ROAD TO CORLAY:
On the Eve of the Fourth Millennium a slowly-building civilization, struggling out of the rubble of the Drowning, was crushed beneath the sceptre of a powerful and repressive Church. But on the Eve of the Fourth Millennium the sound of a magical pipe was heard, and the air was filled with songs of freedom and enlightenment. And on the Eve of the Fourth Millennium the Boy appeared, bringing the gift of sacrilege, a harbinger of the future, heralding the arrival of the White Bird of Dawning. It is the coming of a New Age. A glorious future bearing the presents of the past!
A DREAM OF KINSHIP:
They came to destroy! The treacherous Falcons, uniformed in the black leather tunics of the fanatic Secular Arm, descended on Corlay to burn and kill. Commanded by Lord Constant, ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, they were determined to crush the religious heresy of Kinship. But a new dream rose from the ashes… When four Kinsmen escaped the carnage of their beloved land, each helped to fulfill the miracle that had been foretold: the coming of the Child of the Bride of Time.
A TAPESTRY OF TIME:
Twenty years have passed since the martyrdom of the Boy-piper at York, twenty years in which his legacy, the movement of Kinship, has challenged the tyranny of the Church Militant in Britain’s seven island kingdoms. Now his namesake, Tom, bearing the Boy’s own pipes and perhaps himself imbued with the spirit of the White Bird, is wandering Europe in company with the girl, Witchet. But disaster overtakes them and Tom, in a furry of vengeance, breaks his vow of Kinship. A terrible path lies before him, one that transcends his own world. As he travels it, Tom must come to understand the true nature of the wild White Bird, of The Bride of Time and her Child, and of the Song the Star Born sang.
The Custodians tells of a visitor to a French monastery, and of one specially built tiny room which is constructed precisely on the intersection of mysterious force fields, so that anyone who enters is able to foresee the future. Paradise Beach is the story of a wall-screen whose image of the sea attunes itself to the individual perceptions of the onlooker. Piper at the Gates of Dawn is set towards the end of the next millennium when the stories about the coming of the mysterious white bird of kinship become associated with the travels of an old story-teller and his young nephew, whose pipe seems to have a magical quality. Finally, The Hertford Manuscript tells of the remarkable discovery of a seventeenth-century book with some pages purporting to be the journals of a nineteenth-century time traveller.
Patricia A. McKillip is the author of a number of hugely acclaimed fantasies, including The Riddle-Master of Hed and its sequels, which have been compared to Gene Wolfe’s epic Book of the New Sun, and The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and Ombria in Shadow, both of which won the World Fantasy Award for best novel. She has won the Mythopoeic Award three times and in 2008 was given the World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement. This omnibus collects three of her later works: In the Forests of Serre, Alphabet of Thorn and The Bell at Sealey Head.
IN THE FORESTS OF SERRE: In the tales of World Fantasy Award-winning author Patricia McKillip, nothing is ever as it seems. A mirror is never just a mirror; a forest is never just a forest. Here, it is a place where a witch can hide in her house of bones and a prince can bargain with his heart…where good and evil entwine and wear each others’ faces…and where a bird with feathers of fire can quench the fiercest longing…
ALPHABET OF THORN: One of the most spectacular fantasists of our time, Patricia A. McKillip creates fairy tale worlds of wonder and magic. Now, she opens the page on a time and place where an orphan girl is haunted by thorns…a reluctant queen rules between sea and sky… and epics never end…
THE BELL AT SEALEY HEAD: Sealey Head is a small town on the edge of the ocean, a sleepy place where everyone hears the ringing of a bell no one can see. On the outskirts of town is an impressive estate, Aislinn House, where the aged Lady Eglantyne lies dying, and where the doors sometimes open not to its own dusty rooms, but to the wild majesty of a castle full of knights and princesses.
During the day a blazing and merciless sun beat down on “the boy” and at night a friendless and cold darkness enveloped him. It was a bleak and lonely countryside over which he had been wandering for ten years. A rare tree, bird or wild animal was the only life he encountered during his desolate trek through his young years of roaming. Infrequently, he was fortunate enough to find shelter and food in the shops of deserted villages; otherwise he foraged what he could from the nearly barren land. Contact with other humans was his innermost and greatest fear.
But the day came when his curiosity overcame his sensibilities of self-preservation and he was drawn to the sound of a great wailing not far from a place where he had come to rest.
Form that moment on his whole existence took on a radical change. His wanderings became a kaleidoscope of adventures, emotions, and responsibilities – never static, forever mobile, and potentially dangerous. There were moments when it would have been easier to turn his back, return to old ways, but somehow he knew this was an impossibility. He accepted his new fate, but still feared the greatest of all commitments until it was too late for him.
This fantasy adventure will not fail to excite and stir in every reader memories and emotions of seemingly forgotten times and moments.
Anthologies seldom make history, but Dangerous Visions is a grand exception. Harlan Ellison’s 1967 collection of science fiction stories set an almost impossibly high standard, as more than a half dozen of its stories won major awards – not surprising with a contributors list that reads like a who’s who of 20th-century SF:
Evensong by Lester del Rey | Flies by Robert Silverberg | The Day After the Day the Martians Came by Frederik Pohl | Riders of the Purple Wage by Philip José Farmer | The Malley System by Miriam Allen deFord | A Toy for Juliette by Robert Bloch | The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World by Harlan Ellison | The Night That All Time Broke Out by Brian W. Aldiss | The Man Who Went to the Moon – Twice by Howard Rodman | Faith of Our Fathers by Philip K. Dick | The Jigsaw Man by Larry Niven | Gonna Roll the Bones by Fritz Leiber | Lord Randy, My Son by Joe L. Hensley | Eutopia by Poul Anderson | Incident in Moderan and The Escaping by David R. Bunch | The Doll-House by James Cross | Sex and/or Mr. Morrison by Carol Emshwiller | Shall the Dust Praise Thee? by Damon Knight | If All Men Were Brothers, Would You Let One Marry Your Sister? by Theodore Sturgeon | What Happened to Auguste Clarot? by Larry Eisenberg | Ersatz by Henry Slesar | Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird by Sonya Dorman | The Happy Breed by John Sladek | Encounter with a Hick by Jonathan Brand | From the Government Printing Office by Kris Neville | Land of the Great Horses by R. A. Lafferty | The Recognition by J. G. Ballard | Judas by John Brunner | Test to Destruction by Keith Laumer | Carcinoma Angels by Norman Spinrad | Auto-da-Fé by Roger Zelazny | Aye, and Gomorrah by Samuel R. Delany
Unavailable for 15 years, this huge anthology now returns to print, as relevant now as when it was first published.