“JRR Tolkien said that story ideas arise from ‘the leaf-mould of the mind.’ This story grew out of the rich compost of Alan Weisman’s speculative science book The World Without Us; Native American creation myths; one of the first postapocalyptic novels (and possibly the only hopeful one), Earth Abides by George R. Stewart; and the animal-fantasy classics The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling and Watership Down by Richard Adams.” Acknowledgements, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky by John Claude Bemis.
This story surprised me. I was expecting a medieval fantasy, or maybe a science fiction/medieval fantasy with space men going back in time. I guess I should have gotten a clue from the Big Bear on the the cover along with the spaceman-looking boy. This book is talking animals, but not cute talking animals, more like Watership Down, and it takes place in a postapocalyptic Earth jungle or forest where the wolves have taken over as tyrants and absolute rulers.
The bear is Casseomae, and when an airplane or space shuttle or some kind of flying vehicle falls from the sky near Casseomae’s meadow, the great she-bear rescues a a Skinless One, a child, and begins to take care of him as she would her own bear-cub. Along with a rat named Dumpster, Casseomae goes on a quest to find a place where the child-cub will be safe from wolves and other predators, called “voras.”
The bears and other voras speak a languge called Vorago, and there is some new word insertion, but it’s not excessive. (I agree with whoever it was that said that “the quality of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy story is inversely proportional to the number of new words made up by the author.”) The journey is fascinating as Casseomae follows her own instincts to protect her man-cub, and yet realizes that she is not really following the ways of her tribe when she preserves the life of a creature whose ancestors destroyed the entire forest many generations back. I definitely got the Jungle Book vibe from the plot, even thought it’s a very different stye, tone, and narrative from Kipling’s classic.
This book must have been difficult to write because we never see the events or the setting from the point of view of the only human in the story, the boy. Instead, we hear the words and the thoughts of Casseomae and Dumpster and later on, a dog named Pang. It was fun trying to figure out what some of the “relics” and other things that the animals described really were in human terms.
If you’re looking for an animal story combined with post apocalyptic fiction combined with sci-fi, The Prince Who Fell from the Sky is definitely the book for you. If, like me, you just enjoy a surprisingly good story, then this one might also be a good fit for you.