Aug 12 2010 6:01pm

Growing up alien: Michael Coney’s Hello Summer, Goodbye

The spine of my old Pan paperback reads “Hello Summer, Goodbye Michael Coney,” with “Hello Summer” in red, and “Goodbye Michael Coney” in black. I’d like to say that’s why I bought it, but in fact I was already a Coney fan when I picked up this, his best book, in 1978. Coney had a good feeling for titles—the first book of his I read was called Friends Come In Boxes. Hello Summer, Goodbye was published in the U.S. as Rax and in Canada as Pallahaxi Tide. Under that last title it is still in print in Canada.

This is a short sweet book that is in the small category of books that contain no humans. What it belongs with is the spider portions of A Deepness in the Sky and those other books about planets that have weird orbits with weird long term effects on the inhabitants, like Helliconia and Dragonflight. Thinking about it now, I wonder if I loved the spider bits of Deepness so much because they were on my resonant frequency thanks to reading Hello Summer, Goodbye so many times when I was growing up.

Hello Summer, Goodbye is the story of how Alika-Drove grows up. He begins the book as a boy, about to go on summer vacation to Pallahaxi in the family’s alcohol-powered car. The technology is early twentieth century, the sun Phu is shining, mutants are wandering about tending the fields along with the omnipresent empathic and semi-sentient lorin, and the worst thing that has happened is that Drove’s idiotic mother has poured away his ice goblin just when it was going to come alive. There’s a war with Asta, but it’s far away, there’s a religious story that the sun dragged the world from the clutches of the ice demon Rax, but sensible people know that Rax is just a big planet. Drove’s looking forward to meeting the girl he met last summer, Pallahaxi-Browneyes, and the coming of the grume, when the sea gets thick, and this year he’s going to have his own skimmer.

This is not a predictable book. The planet’s orbit is weird and causes weird effects, the people are aliens, everything is very cleverly set up to seem familiar and slip down easily with just a few little science fictional touches here and there, but it’s actually all much odder than it looks, and gets even stranger as it goes along. The thing that is the way people form relationships—parents and children, young lovers, government and people. These aren’t aliens with alien culture, they’re aliens with alien biology and cosmology. The book is deeply satisfying whether or not you know where it’s heading—and the first time through, you really don’t. You have to re-read it to see how well it’s set up all along.

I like a great deal of Coney’s work—everything except his Cordwainer-Smith influenced books, really. He’s not a very well known writer, which is surprising, but I suppose what he wrote was never in the mainstream or really part of any movement—also he suffered from particularly awful covers. He’s hard to classify. He set a lot of his stories in places that feel like little Cornish fishing villages on other planets, which is refreshing, because nobody else did that. He was very good at writing characters and setting up the worlds that made them.

Still, Hello Summer, Goodbye is in print as Pallahaxi Tide—get it while you can.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published eight novels, most recently Half a Crown and Lifelode, and two poetry collections. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

Nicholas Waller
1. Nicholas Waller
I read this ages ago - I have the same Pan edition - and thought it was great and always meant to re-read it; though by now I have forgotten so much except a certain elegiac tone that I would have to re-read it twice. Still, it is pretty short!

For a time his unpublished sequel, I Remember Pallahaxi, was available for download free on his website from shortly before his death, though I never got round to reading it. I see it was taken down when PS Publishing acquired the rights and published it along with Hello Summer, Goodbye.
Jo Walton
2. bluejo
Nicholas: I don't want there to be a sequel because I love the end so much as it is.
Nicholas Waller
3. LouWW
I remember reading Friends Come in Boxes when it first came out--loved it! Don't ever remember seeing this book when it came out, though--will try to get a copy. Thanks, Jo!
Rich Horton
4. ecbatan
I loved HELLO SUMMER, GOODBYE, which I read originally in the DAW edition, as RAX, though I have always called it HELLO SUMMER, GOODBYE, in my head because that title is so much better.

The sequel, I REMEMBER PALLAHAXI, is actually quite good, though nowhere near as good as HELLO SUMMER, GOODBYE, and it did change my perception of the ending of the first book, because what I thought happened didn't quite happen. It's also a sequel that explains some things we didn't know about the first book, actually in quite logical ways, and not harmful ways, but I did find it just a bit offputting because the explanations changed the nature of that world in my head somewhat ...
Max 56
6. Max56
I read this ages ago - I've same Pan edition - & thought it was gr8 & always meant 2 re-read it; though by now I've forgotten so much except certain elegiac tone that I'd have 2 re-read it twice. Still, it's pretty short!
Nicholas Waller
7. Nicholas Waller
Hmm... who is Max56 and why is he reposting part of my comment in semi-text-speak? And why not the other part? Peccavi?

Lemme try:

Unpub seq I Ken Pahxi wz avb 4 dnld 3 on his site fm b4.death; I never got O 2 rdg it. Twas rmvd wn PS got rts & pubbed w Hi Sumr gBye.
Jo Walton
8. bluejo
Nicholas: It`s a fairly new spammer thing, to make comments seem legitimate. If you notice it here, flag it, it makes it easier for the moderators.
Nicholas Waller
9. Marc Laidlaw
One of my absolute all time favorite books. And I also read it as RAX.
Wesley Parish
10. Aladdin_Sane
Now that is a surprise. I'd never heard of him before. Now I think I'll have to pester my favourite bookstore owners to order me a copy. (I am a sucker for stories with new, surprisingly different cosmologies. I got through the Helleconia trilogy through trying to work out the ins-and-outs of their cosmology and the biologies of the humans, the protognostics and the phagors. Wonderful world, though I'd only enjoy it in brief visits. :)

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