Author: Dan Simmons
Swift Publishers / 212 pages / October 1999
One look at the rather iffy cover art and you know straight away that The Drune is not going to be your average fantasy. Or science fiction. Or cautionary tale. Whatever. Normal it isn’t. Walton, stalwart science teacher, has come to the area of Green Willow Farm in search of a UFO. He has two definite goals: hunt down whatever appears in the photograph he pried from one of his students, and hang on to Wife Number Four. One misstep and he could end up empty-handed on both counts.
Akaylia, one of Britain’s more adventurous and peculiar geologists, is determined to see the inside of the volcano she has been chiselling around for some time. Considering that she is a force more unmovable than solid stone, chances are that she will find a way in. Whether either seeker will we be happy with what they find is the question.
Meanwhile, the military would really like to know where its missing nuclear warheads have gotten to.
Walton, Akaylia, and the warheads will all end up in an underground world unlike anything we have seen before. A creation of madness, audacity, and whimsy that seems too far-fetched to be only a product of Palmer’s imagination.
But, then, that’s the twisted path her imagination takes. Everything is greatly out of whack in Palmer’s universe; that’s what makes it so entertaining.
However bizarre the situation becomes though, Palmer keeps a steady eye on the characters. She knows people — how they are and aren’t. The Brits she lovingly pokes fun at are quintessentially British, but utterly human. At times, it seems she knows us disquietingly well. If you see some of yourself in The Drune, take comfort; we’re all in there to some extent, whether we want to admit it or not.
Yes, it all seems like madness, but this is madness with a message. Palmer has some points to make about humans, civilisation, and civility. The fact that she works them in to a wild, through-the-looking-glass adventure eases the lessons into the most resistant brain, with little or no pain.
If you take out the message, is it feather-weight entertainment? Maybe. Is it entertaining? Oh, definitely.
What? I’ve taken you this far and I still haven’t explained what a “Drune” is? How true! But, that would be telling, wouldn’t it? Well, I’m afraid you will have to read the book to find the answer to that little question. You obviously wouldn’t want me to blab about the core of the book. And you are right. Thank you for restraining me.
Nothing, though, is going to stop me from demanding one of those wasps. If I’m very good this year, maybe I will get one for Robotukah. Like many of the characters in The Drune, you can’t put your finger on exactly what is that makes the wasps so appealing, you just know that — like the book — you’d be happy to make some room in your life for them.