cover image Calypso


Oliver K. Langmead, illus. by Darren Kerrigan. Titan, $18.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-80336-533-6

In this demanding novel-in-verse from Langmead (Glitterati), mad genius Sigmund aims to create the planet colony New Terra as a second chance for Earthlings. For now, the future colonists are “hanging like pupae” in “bulging frozen sacs” aboard space station Calypso, a vast laboratory to which Sigmund summons a team of engineers from Earth, including Catherine, a botanist who has turned her body into a living terrarium; and Rochelle, a philosopher specializing in “colonial ethics” who agrees to leave behind her two young children for the job. The women make the eon-long journey locked in cryogenic sarcophagi. When they emerge, they discover a world-in-progress steeped in ancient rituals. Rochelle must endure being treated as an idol by the colonists; Catherine prepares for her own self-sacrifice, though thinks of it as a metamorphosis into New Terra’s communal garden; and Sigmund busies himself creating New Terra’s seasons with the grand spectacle of the Old Testament mixed with Fantasia. Design choices enhance this lush sensory experience: in Catherine’s sections, the words are laid out to look like roots and flora, while the lines in Sigmund’s sections trail across the page like the plumes of a departing rocket. At the climax, however, polyphony turns to cacophony and the latent Christian themes become overpowering. Still, readers up for the challenge will find plenty to reward them in this ambitious work. (Apr.)