Pros: interesting blend of sci-fi, fantasy, characters, philosophy,and spirituality
Cons: not a wide appeal and perhaps too sci-fi for some
The Bottom Line: Another excellent read from the fabulous Charles DeLint
Somewhere in the future, Man has managed to poison our planet almost beyond recognition. You either live in the 'Plex (huge cities), make do living in the slums just outside the 'Plex, or take your chances in the Badlands between 'Plexes....which are slim to none! Unless, of course, you believe all that talk about the Enclaves. Legend has it that through good fortune and hard work the Nations (collective Native American People) were able to forward their technological know-how and stave off the ravages with which mankind had brutalized Mother Earth.
Discouraged by the rest of society's blindness and uncaring, they sealed themselves off with that technology on their lands in the Enclaves. There they don't have to deal with acid rain and other symptoms of pollution. Nor do they have to deal with the crimelords that rule the 'Plex, or the crazies in the Badlands. Who knows if they are real? Who cares if they are, because they aren't sharing and life is tough all over!
In this tale, we follow Gahzee, a dog-scout of the Anishnabeg/Huron Enclave, as he leaves his home forever to find truth and protect his people by making regular reports. Another Enclave has stopped transmitting and they need to know why. Above all, the People and their technological wonders must be kept safe until the time comes for them to emerge and heal the sorrows of our world inflicted by those thoughtless "others". But sometimes, no matter how wise or well intentioned one is, the truth isn't what you wanted to hear or thought you knew. Gahzee, Lisa, Ragman, the Elders, and many others find truth in the most unlikely of places...in Svaha, the moment between thunder and lighting...a moment filled eternally with Hope and Potential.
I found this blend of science-fiction and fantasy, triad and yakuza gangs, blended Asian and Native American cultures to be highly unique and intriguing. This unpredictable work also contains the best explanations of Medicine Wheels and the Twenty Count that I have ever found in a work of fiction. As a reader, I was drawn in by the unusual settings as well as the atypical combination of characters. Street-smart contentious Ragman and his devotion to technology and desire to lift the underdog out of the slums, contrasts sharply with Gahzee's softer spirituality and inner-conflicts between duty to his people and duty to his Creator. Each unique character seems to only further the one unifying thought, we are all only human.
I had no problem empathizing with other characters who seemed trapped in or struggling with apathetic acceptance of the restrictions that current society has place on them. Even during my first reading of this work, this particular aspect of DeLint's characters seemed all too like the pervading attitudes of my own fellow citizens! The author does a flawless job illustrating for readers how easy it is to fall into negative attitudes of blame, superiority, doubt, apathy, despair, or frustration. In the end, we see that even those whom we have come to view as the 'good guys' are quite capable of mistakes and misjudgements. Perhaps it is simply our flaws and how we face them that make us shine most brightly.
However, DeLint does not leave us to wallow in this emotional miasma for long. After showing us the some of the worst future possibilities, he reminds us that ultimately the choice is ours. "If you're not ready to die, then how can you live?", One character asks. All too often, Life requires that kind of commitment. If you want to truly live your life you should be prepared to live every day as if it were your last. He further cautions us, "When a species dies, it leaves a silent space in the worldsong that can never be filled." It is this simple beautiful expression that reveals the heart of the author more truly than any non-fictional interview could. De Lint believes that we are all unique, all worthy of love and respect, that with love, patience, charity and hope all things are possible. His eagerness to spread these beliefs is always evident, and he shows us this tender concern for the World in each of his writings. Put more bluntly, De Lint says in his work titled "Spiritwalk", "Our affection for others is the one thing that is an infinite resource. We can never care too much, or for too many."
Charles DeLint is, in my opinion, second only to Tolkien in the fantasy genre, and some days I honestly question whether or not I'm underrating him! Each of his works is astounding in its insight, depth, creativity, heart, and sheer entertainment. Here, he blends Native American beliefs with a variety of Asian cultures and modern problems. I'd say this particular work is a bit heavier on the sci-fi end than most of his works that I have read, yet it still remains as a shining example of an innovative fantasy novel.
A true Bard in every sense, DeLint never fails to delight, astonish, and enlighten me. He excels in showing us the best and worst of our nature, making the reader think while he entertains us. He is always the first author I turn to when someone asks me what else there is in the fantasy genre besides Tolkien. I can't find greater words to recommend him to anyone who finds sastisfaction in opening a book. This particular work is near and dear to my heart simply for its subject matter...the topics of humanity being too self-divided and self-centered and the very real dangers we could face if we don't wise up.
The only drawbacks I can see to this work are: the subject matter wouldn't necessarily appeal to a wide selection of readers, and it's a bit sci-fi for many fantasy fiction fans. I'm not a huge fan of hardcore sci-fi and this Isn't really hardcore...but it can feel that way sometimes, so be warned. Truly, this is such an interesting blend of sci-fi, fantasy, characters, philosophy,and spirituality that I can't help but to recommend it to you all with very high marks. It's just that simple. Til then, Svaha...that moment of perfect eternal hope and possibility, waits for you in that moment between! Dream True...
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About the reviewer
Quinn Blackburn (Entwife)
Hello, my name is Quinn... yes, that really is my first name. :o) I also answer to Mom, and occasionally Entwife. I enjoy Beauty wherever I find it... Nature, Music, Art in all its forms... I believe … more
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After an environmental and economic apocalypse, the "real" world collides with alternate ones as an Canadian Indian tries to restore order to the planes, even as Native groups have retreated permanently from the rest of the damaged population.