Quakers! Quakers in Space!
Ok now that’s over with, I have to start all over. Because this is not a weird, spacey space colony pulp fiction type of book. I’m sorry if I misled you but come on, when do I ever get to say, “Quakers in Space!”?
Molly Gloss has written an intriguing, quiet book that speaks volumes in The Dazzle of Day. This is a very international book. Escaping from a dying Earth, Quakers from various countries (they speak Esperanto!) have found themselves a home on board the Dusty Miller, a self-sustaining but ageing spaceship. A crew has been sent out to explore a frozen planet as a possible future home. Bjoro is among the crew, and the planet isn’t something he’s prepared for:
“He had thought in the filmcards he had studied of unbounded landscapes, of storms and snows and seas, there remained no surprises. It hadn’t occurred to him, the vast depth of the third dimension. He hadn’t thought he would fear the sky.”
The funny thing about The Dazzle of Day is that nothing seems to be happening, although things are actually happening. The crew crashes on the frozen planet, someone dies when out working on the sail, all major events that are but a sideline to the relationships, to the tales of the daily lives of these Quakers, such as Bjoro’s wife Joko and son Cejo, these people who work the fields, who cook in the kitchen houses, who take part in meetings and discuss their future on this frozen planet, who look after their families and each other.
“For 175 years they had gone on talking and thinking and making ready for leaving this world. They had lived for 175 years in a kind of suspended state, a continual waiting for change, but it was a balanced and deep-grounded condition, an equilibrium. They knew their world, root and branch, knew its history and its economies. The human life of the Miller and the life of its soil and its plants and animals revolved together, in a society that was well-considered, a community that was sustaining. Some people thought they had lived for 175 years in a world that was a kind of Eden.”
But there are no answers. Or at least the book doesn’t leave us with any firm ones.
The Dazzle of Day is a book best described in opposites. There is an ending, but it is not really the end. It is a story of beginnings and endings. The words are quiet, but also full of strength and understanding.
Molly Gloss’s novels
- Outside the Gates. 1986.
- The Jump-Off Creek. 1989.
- The Dazzle of Day. Macmillan. 1998.
- Wild Life. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2000.
- The Hearts of Horses. 2007.