Windhaven by George R.R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This thirty-year-old book is essentially a collection of three novellas, the first of which, "The Storms of Windhaven", was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula awards thirty-five years ago. Although the same main character (and many supporting characters) appear throughout all three parts, they really feel like distinct works.
The setting is a planet where a spaceship crashed hundreds of years ago. The inhabitants have lost much of the technology, but cannibalized the starship to make wings for messengers to travel between the planet's many islands. The gravity and climate of the planet make this possible, and other things make sea travel difficult because...well, because it's a cool idea, and that's what the authors needed to make the plot work.
The first novella seems very uplifting and optimistic, to the point where you want to check the cover to make sure it really is co-authored by George R.R. Martin. The rest of the book introduces more moral ambiguities, but the novel never comes anywhere near the level of sex and violence (or sexual violence) people have come to expect in his most famous work.
The book has held up well over the years. It doesn't feel dated at all. While I have no specific complaints about it, neither did I find it a compelling page-turner. Its unusual setting is probably the star of the book -- sort of like Lord Valentine's Castle. But unlike that work, Windhaven ranks as "kinda neat" rather than "fascinating" on the table of sci-fi planets with a fantasy feel.