Published: December 15th 1987 by Tor Fantasy
Genres: Science Fiction
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The Coelura by Anne McCaffrey is a novella-length space opera about fashion, contracts, and alien life forms. It reminds me a little bit of the Kill La Kill anime, except pulpier and not quite as developed.
Contracts are very important in the world of Demeathorn. Rather than marriage, people enter into short-term contracts in order to conceive heirs. Caissa is the body heir to the Ambassador, which means she’s grown up to a life of privilege, but also that she owes it to her dad to arrange a beneficial contract when it’s time for her to bear her own heir. When her father tries to convince her to settle for someone below her standards, Caissa rides off into the sunset on her speeder. She hears a distress call and meets Murrell, a handsome young man who has connections to the Coelura, a sentient species that weaves/becomes super fashionable robes that respond to the wearer’s emotions, surroundings, etc. Caissa realizes that the Coelura need to be protected from the schemes of people like her father, and so determines to do whatever is in her power to help.
I’ve been a huge Anne McCaffrey fan ever since I first discovered her in high school. Her heroines are competent businesswomen, and I’ve always enjoyed how independent and assertive they are. Caissa is no different, and continually does her own thing while spinning it to fulfill her filial obligations. But even though I liked Caissa as a heroine, my overall thoughts on The Coelura were mixed.
Compared to McCaffrey’s other books, The Coelura meandered too much and didn’t feel like a cohesive story. The ending in particular hinted at unexpected characteristics of the Coelura themselves, but in a rushed and dismissive kind of way. Another 50 pages and an extra couple hours of editing could have done wonders for the story.
One the other hand, one of the really neat things about The Coelura was the art. This was a really short book, and the only reason that it approaches 150 pages is that there were so many full-page illustrations interspersed throughout. I love vintage pulpy SF/F artwork, so I was delighted to find so much of it.
Verdict: Not McCaffrey’s best work by a long shot, but a fun pulpy romp nonetheless.