Monday, November 09, 2009

The Word Reclaimed

Imagine, if you will, a future where humankind has spread out throughout a dozen worlds. But it's also a future where owning books is forbidden, especially books that promote intolerant religions. Talmuds, Korans, and especially Bibles can land their owners in a heap of trouble with an organization called Kesek, a secret police with a mandate to keep the Realm free of subversive elements. Most people know enough to steer clear of them.

Unfortunately for Baden Haczyk, he's placed on a collision course when he finds a Bible while salvaging a ship that had been attacked by pirates. He sneaks it on board his father's ship and soon, he and his friends are plunged on a desperate chase with pirates and Kesek bound and determined to capture that Bible for themselves.

But that's not all that happens in The Word Reclaimed by Steve Rzasa. It's also the story of the Verge family, nobles within the Realm. A number of them are military men and women, sent to put down a rebellion on a distant colony called Bethel. But even there, things are not as they seem.

I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. Something about it kept me at arm's length the entire time I was reading it and I really don't have any idea what it was. Rzasa has put together a fantastic world in this story. You can tell that he put a lot of thought into the technology, the military units, the political systems, everything that governs how this world works. The characters are well fleshed out and believable.

The more I think about it, I think the issue might have been one of story balance. Like I said in the summary, there are basically two plot lines that go through this story. There's Baden and his Bible. There are the Verges and their military and political machinations. Until the very end of the book, these two lines do not cross in any significant way (although Rzasa makes it pretty clear about halfway through the book that they eventually will). The problem is that while both plots are significant, they disappear for long stretches. For example, we don't meet the Verges until a third or half-way through the book. And once their action takes over, Baden and company disappear for quite a while.

Maybe that's it. Maybe not. I don't know. Whatever the case, while I wasn't completely engrossed by this book, I did enjoy it and I'd be willing to come back to this world again.

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