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A Boxing Day Review: Spiritfeather

Publishing fads come and go: a fickle tide of ideas and projects that appear one day, spawn a huge variety of similar projects, and then vanish in a twinkling. Young adult publishing is more often than not a victim of these fads. Recent trends in the success of ghost-written and single author series bounced off the genre shared-world concept and gave us several sequences of novellas in common backgrounds - all written by well known genre writers. Orion's Dolphin imprint came up with the The Web, a SF sequence which sold well, and was collected in two adult focused collections. However, other sequences didn't make as much of a splash, and vanished, often uncompleted.

One of these (from the editorial team that brought us The Web) was Dreamtime, a series of fantasies that riffed off Neil Gaiman's Sandman. The gap between reality and the world of dreams has thinned, and all over the world people are stepping over the threshold. It's not as simple and easy as that, though, for the Shadowman is attempting to control dreams - and reshape the Dreamtime into his dark vision. The choice of authors included Clarke Award winner Colin Greenland.

His installment Spiritfeather takes us to south India on the eve of the monsoon, and to a family coming to terms with remarriage and a new home. Roshana, the eldest child, finds herself caught up in dark dreams, dreams that lead to the disappearance of her baby brother. She must face her fears: both here in the real, and in the shifting relam of the Dreamtime. Only then will she stand a chance of rescuing her brother.

Greenland captures the sights and sounds of the end of the dry season, and gives us a glimpse of life in a family that isn't Western. We live so much in our closeted world, reinforced by media views of our way of life as good and right, that it's important to read stories like this, stories that put the West on the periphery - not in the centre; stories that approach the world from a different set of values and visions. Greenland makes a brave attempt, and nearly succeeds. But he is British, born into the West, and filtering everything through his culture. He bravely throws away much of what he is, but you can still see glimpses of England in his words.

A brave attempt, and an intriguing little fantasy. But what would Rushdie have made of Greenland's subject matter?