As Mark, a human boy, Windracer, a Terek and her beast a Hrak called Matak, travel between the stars, the first Garden Adventure begins. Mark finds himself drawn into a battle on a planet light years from earth to stop the evil Llarst from building their own inter-galactic gates. With the help of the peace-making Anju, the adventure has only begun.
Space elevators and magnificent lift-offs at Sydney airport, and Tania, a human girl meets Mark after she enters a gate that enables humans to cross light years in a mere second. On a race through time to stop the future unfolding into disaster, the interstellar adventures take the heroes and an array of stunning and bizarre aliens from other times and places, through temporal warp generators and simultaneous time bubbles, surfing temporal waves on a quest to rewrite the past and avert a catastrophe that would surely end the miraculous universe that the characters inhabit.
An outstanding innovation on a well-loved theme. The Garden Adventures is well-told and yes, thoroughly believable.
Mark Spender is adept at travelling long distances. Namely because his entire family has frequently been relocated from Australia to far flung war zones, including Moscow and Wuhan. So when his mother, Muriel Spender, abruptly cancels her son's birthday visit to her archaeological site, Mark decides to go ahead and visit her anyway. This won't be easy as Muriel is off world on Teral 4. To make matters worse, Mark's father - a Colonel with the United Nations Peace Keepers - hasn't yet realised that his son has gone AWOL. As Mark steps off the cargo plane that transported him from the Space Elevator, his anxiety peaks. For not only is he on unfamiliar ground on Teral 4, but he hasn't had the guts to tell Muriel he's coming. Too late Mark realises that he's made an unwise decision and his surprise visit might not be appreciated. And here lies the tale; for Mark is about to discover that nothing is what it seems, friendly folk may be revealed as the enemy, and life on Teral 4 can be difficult, dangerous or just plain scary. Also, unknown to Mark, Muriel Spender and her fellow archaeologists may well be in deep trouble.
Teral 4 is populated by various species of aliens; some are friendly and cooperative like the Tereks and Red Wind clan while other aliens, such as the devious Llarst, perceive human beings as useful but expendable.
Mark stumbles across an ingenious young Terek, known as Windracer, and her extraordinary hrak, Matak. Windracer has already set out on her own quest but she generously offers to help him in his. Enquiring minds are probably wondering what a hrak is. Think of a monstrous beast about three metres tall, with massive tusks, a hairy beard, excessive rolls of brown skin, curling claws and the ability to transport aliens and humans at an astonishing speed. On Teral 4 a hrak is a desirable beast to have on hand. Unless of course it's an untamed wild ha'ak - a close cousin of the hrak - who likes nothing better than stampeding en masse through settlements and campsites in the middle of the night.
Windracer with her high domed forehead, sheathed claws, smooth mottled green and gold skin and flexible hips, travels easily astride Matak, while Mark is mortified that he has to ride backwards with his legs extended. This is not the only indignity he will suffer. Mark doesn't have Windracer's serrated teeth, so chomping into raw animal flesh or roadkill is not an option, and getting enough to eat is problematic. However, despite being small for his age Mark's courage, ability to overcome fear, creativity and general smarts ensure that he and Windracer will outfox their enemies and bring about a power shift on Teral 4.
One of the things I loved about The Stone Garden is that the main protagonists are not reliant on fancy gadgets, space age hardware or AI robots. Despite the story taking place in the futuristic Human Hegemony, it is Windracer's and Mark's character, stoicism, cleverness and courage that wins out in the end. The character driven aspect of the story is powerful because it is all about beings - both alien and human - putting aside their differences and coming together to defeat the evil that has been surreptitiously unleashed on Teral 4. Given our existing global political situation this has immense appeal.
Another aspect that appealed to me was that the future as conceived by the author is not dystopian. In Harvey's futuristic world, evil certainly exists but not everything or everyone is unpleasant or rotten to the core. The most devious human in the story turns out to have redeeming qualities and the Peacekeepers provide an alternate world view.
In Harvey's universe there's still room for humanity and the concept of a futuristic totalitarian state - currently trending in film, television and books - is not the central theme. The future is not unremittingly bleak and deprivation, terror and oppression can be overcome. The humanitarians and peace keepers of the world can and will succeed.
The subtext of Harvey's novel is that there is hope for all living beings.