Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yet another review two-fer

Okay, so I've been a bit lazy. I've got two books that I finished reading that I need to review. And even though one is a Christian sci-fi book while the other is a secular sci-fi book, I noticed a connection between the two authors that I'll share in a bit.

The first book is Shivering World by Kathy Tyers. From what I understand, there have been two versions of this book. It was originally published as secular sci-fi and then Tyers brought it to Bethany House and they republished it as a Christian book.

A few years ago, I found the original version in the library and read it through. When I learned that a new version was out, I wanted to reread it and see how things had changed. Imagine my delight when I found the Christian version in a local library.

Well, I've since read it and I can honestly say, I can't tell the difference.

Now that might be because it's been a while and I've read dozens of books in the interim. But I don't think it's necessarily all that bad. While the Christian content is there, Tyers doesn't beat us over the head with it and that's never a bad thing.

For those unfamiliar with the book, it's the story of Graysha Brady-Phillips, a high school teacher turned scientist who goes to the planet Goddard to help terraform it. But there's a lot of intrigue in the air. For example, Goddard is cooling and nobody seems willing to either admit it or figure out why. And then there are the Goddard colonists, a mysterious bunch called the Lwuites. Rumor has it they practice illegal genetic engineering. That's part of the reason why Graysha is there. She has a debilitating genetic condition and she's hoping that she can maybe find the healing she needs. But on a planet like Goddard, where intrigue lurks around every corner, there's no guarantee that she'll even live long enough to do so.

I was impressed with the level of science that Tyers loaded into the story. I sometimes got a little lost in the details but not tremendously so. The story also felt a little uneven in places as well, but that might just be me. But still, if you're looking for a good example of what Christian sci-fi can be, you can't go wrong with Tyers.

The other book that I just finished reading last night is Angelmass by Timothy Zahn.

What are the quantum particles known as angels? That's what Pax spy Jereko Kosta is sent to find out. He infiltrates a break-away government called the Empyreal. All his superiors know is that the Empyreal requires their government and military officials to wear angels, believing that these particles make the wearer more ethical and noble. But the Pax disagrees. They fear that these particles, found outside the Angelmass quantum blackhole, are the precursors to an alien invasion.

Kosta has to find a number of unlikely allies to complete his task. But when he learns the truth, he realizes that it might be too late to save himself or the Empyreal.

Zahn created a fascinating universe for his story. Both sides of this conflict have interesting technology and it's all presented in a believable way. And Zahn also kept his plot somewhat unpredictable. I was never quite sure what he was going to pull out next.

My one gripe about this story was the somewhat pat ending. While he resolved most of the issues (or did to a certain degree), it almost felt like he left a few too many loose threads dangling. The story ended perfectly well; it just felt like there could have been a little more put into it. But it was still a fun ride and definitely worth the read.

So what to Tyers and Zahn have in common? If you think it's that they both wrote Star Wars novels, then you're partially right. They both have (and it's the Star Wars novels that introduced me to their writing in the first place). But that's not what I had in mind. No, in both cases, the authors used knowledge from their everyday lives.

According to the bio blurb on Shivering World, Tyers has a degree in microbiology. So does her main character and it's microbiology that factors into the book's conclusion. Zahn, according to the jacket blurb, has a great deal of knowledge about physics, and he certainly brought that to bear on the story.

So I guess the old adage is true. "Write what you know." It worked for Zahn and Tyers.

Now I just need to figure out how my encyclopedic knowledge of lines from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" to enhance my fiction...

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