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Green, Terence
Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1992. 266pp, paper, $16.95, ISBN 0-7710-3550-0. CIP

Grades 9 and up/Ages 14 and up

Reviewed by Barbara Camfield

Volume 20 Number 4
1992 September

This fast-paced science fiction work takes us forward and backward in time with energy and suspense. In the author's note at the end of the novel, Terence Green tells us that he has taken his inspiration from the stories of Robinson Crusoe and Pitcairn's Island (Brooklyn, Haskell Bookseller, 1972). "Writing Children of the Rainbow gave me the opportunity to revisit the magic of the classic stories of my youth. Everyone should be so lucky." In addition, Green acknowledges his admiration for the hero of the Rainbow Warrior, David McTaggart, who attempted in his small Greenpeace vessel to prevent the French from testing nuclear bombs in the South Pacific. The story Green thus creates is a strange mélange of real and fantasy with the images from the fictional world of adventure and those from twentieth-century international news.

We are immediately launched into three intertwined narrative threads involving McTaggart on the ocean opposing the French nuclear testing in 1972, Fletcher Christian IV in Peru in 2072, and Bran Dalton on Norfolk Island in 1835. By the device of time travel, we move from one century to another, from the contemporary situation of McTaggart to the mystical world of Fletcher Christian, who is the direct descendent of the Bounty mutineers. Then we move back in time to the British penal colony where Bran Dalton is a shackled prisoner.

Fletcher Christian's trip backwards in time is driven off course by the explosion of a nuclear device by the French in the Pacific. Christian and Dalton find themselves switching places in time. The twenty-first-century man is suddenly in a society where there is no such thing as human rights, and death is the best means for prisoners to escape their earthly hell. This society believes in the concept of original sin, the subservience of women, and the absolute power of male military authority.

Dalton, on the other hand, has to cope with the technologies of the radio, the music of the Rolling Stones, tinned food, and the sexual emancipation of the modern woman. The altered circumstances give rise to humorous incidents, but also to speculation on human traits which continue despite scientific and technological advances.

The violent treatment of McTaggart and his crew by the French equals the cruelty experienced by the prisoners on Norfolk Island. In all centuries, religion, or at least belief in inexplicable powers, is shown to be a means of reconciliation with the human condition.

This story would appeal to teenagers with a taste for science fiction. It is anchored in the present with the Greenpeace theme, and even to Vancouver and Toronto, where the international repercussions of the nuclear incident reverberate.

Barbara Camfield is Chief of Reference Services at the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario.

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