The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike (book review).

There is a note to readers at the beginning of ‘The Season Of Passage’ explaining that it was written in the 1970s and has been published in its original form. The author therefore apologises for the strange dates and for the complete absence of cell phones. While the story was written in the 70s, it was not published until the 1992 hardback edition was released. So, we have a story that describes events 35 years into the 1970s future that is now roughly 40 years-old. Putting all of that to one side, I wanted to see if it was a good story rather than to see how many of the author’s future predictions were right or wrong.


‘The Season Of Passage’ tells the tale of NASA’s first manned mission to Mars, only they weren’t the first to land there as the Russians had beaten them to it. One slight worrying detail was that contact was lost with the Russians shortly after they landed and they never came back. The medical officer for the second manned mission is Doctor Lauren Wagner, who in the prologue to the main story is experiencing a very bad nightmare which seems to be a recurring theme for the characters in this story. Lauren Wagner is the principle character supported by her reporter boyfriend, Terry Hayes, and younger sister, Jennifer Wagner. While Lauren’s nightmare gives you an indication that all might not be well, it is Jennifer lighting the fire and then playing with the flames that puts it well beyond doubt that something’s up. Of course, Jennifer has nightmares and come to think of it so does Terry.

There are five other crew members who accompany Lauran aboard the spaceship Nova on the trip to Mars. Of particular note is the oldest member of the party, archaeologist Professor James Ranoth, who’s known as Jim. Just before the crew went into quarantine prior to the mission, he travelled to the Himalayas where he met a strange yogi who took him into a mountain cave and gave him a very odd ring. The significance of the ring is revealed in the second story as, interspaced between the chapters covering the mission to Mars, there is the story of Chaneen of the Sasta, the first human beings. This much older story reveals the true nature of the horrors that can be found at Mars.

‘The Season Of Passage’ is a rather good horror story in a SF setting. I appreciate that some of the technologies have been overtaken by recent inventions or developments that were not expected at the time the story was written. You could also argue that a manned expedition to Mars is another 40 years away, so in some areas the author was overly optimistic. However, the story works very well with the element of suspense nicely ratcheting up until the obvious can no longer be ignored. It’s then that the sheer hopelessness of the situation finally hits home. I think its testament to the writing of the Christopher Pike that he’s able to convey these feelings to the reader so well.

There are also some nice touches which lead you to wonder if the events depicted in the Chaneen story really might have given rise to the old tales of monsters. It’s also possible to make comparisons to certain elements in other notable stories such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, ‘Alien’ and ‘The Abyss’, to name just a few. Perhaps the ideas behind ‘The Season Of Passage’ were being actively discussed in the 1970s. While I have no idea why the book is called ‘The Season Of Passage’, I do recommend it as a good horror/SF tale that’s worth reading.

Andy Whitaker

June 2014

(pub: TOR/Forge. 398 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $14.99 (US), $16.99 (CAN), £ 8.85 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-7653-3129-8)

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One thought on “The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike (book review).

  • I know this review is old, but I LOVE this book and wanted to address something you said about the title. There’s a line that Chaneen says about coming back to the Sastra in the next ‘season of passage’ to defeat Kratine. I believe that’s why Pike chose that name.

    Great review! Love to see people picking up this book – first time I read it was just after release back in 92 and I’ve loved it since!


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