If I were to try to create some kind of thematic key to the many books of Kim Stanley Robinson, nature would be high on the list. He’s always been fascinated with the natural world, whether it is the artificial landscape of an orbiting habitat, the wonders of other planets in our solar system, or the Earth itself. Shaman gives him a chance to explore the wonders of prehistoric Earth.
The plot itself is slight. Shaman is a coming of age story for Loon, a shaman’s apprentice during the Ice Age. But the plot is just a frame work for Robinson’s real concern: what was life like during the Ice Age?
With that in mind, Robinson crafts an immersive world, where we are following Loon as he goes through the rhythms of life. Loon’s world is as terrifying as it is wonderful. For every spectacular vista or view, there are dangerous predators or Neanderthals.
This immersive experience is the real draw here. The lack of a propulsive story means that the book doesn’t move quickly. Just as Loon lives to rhythms that are slower than the modern world, so to this book demands a slower read that simply is content to exist in the past that Robinson has crafted. This isn’t an experience that will appeal to all readers. But for those that have felt the lure of the Wild, this is an unforgettable experience.