Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Birthright Project Revisited

Once again, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and pull out some books that I hadn't read for a while (in this case, it turns out, for four years! Wow!). So I dove back into the ruined world left by the Endless Wars and went out on missions with the good folks of the Birthright Project. That's right, I'm talking about Outriders and Trackers, both books by Kathryn Mackel.

It didn't take me long to remember why I loved these books so much. In a far-distant future, the world is a ruined place. A series of man-made disasters known as the Endless Wars have ravaged the planet. The only form of technology to survive the cataclysm are genetically engineered cell lines. The survivors of the Wars believe them to be magic and use them to transmogrify plants and animals into horrendous living weapons. It's a hard world, a violent world, a place where hope has died.

But all is not lost. God has called a faithful remnant to shelter in a second Ark, one buried deep beneath the Arctic ice. This last bastion of faith and technology must remain hidden, secreted away so the grasping lords of the ruined world can't unlock its secrets. But God doesn't want His people to hide forever. They're called on to send out their children into the harsh world to track down the untainted survivors of the Endless Wars. They are to reclaim as much of humanity's original birthright as possible.

These two books follow the members of the Birthright Project at their first camp, a valley settlement called Horesh. In the first book, Outriders, the brash Niki is sent to retrieve new "rooks," children sent out from the Ark to join the project while Brady, the leader of Horesh, needs to deal with a headstrong woman named Ajoba, a member of his team who insists on doing things her own way, even if that means putting the entire camp in the sights of Alrod, the Baron of Traxx.

In the second book, Trackers, the team at Horesh have many problems to solve (all of which I can't go into really, not without dropping some major spoilers from the first book). Suffice it to say that Ajoba is still struggling with pride, Brady is still flummoxed by his conflicted feelings for another member of his team, and a young man named Timothy is driven by desires he can't quite contain. How's that for a vague back-cover copy?

At any rate, I loved these books, primarily because they're so fresh and original. Mackel was willing to spin a very different version of the future, one that's both bleak and yet somewhat hopeful. What I really appreciate is that while there are smatterings of eschatology in the story, it's not the cookie-cutter dispensational premillennialism that's come to be standard in Christian fiction. It's a unique take, a Christian post-apocalyptic adventure. And it's a lot of good fun.

There really is only one downside to this series: it's incomplete. It's pretty obvious at the end of the second and "final" book that Mackel had more story to tell. But maybe it's not too late.

The Christian publishing world (or at least our little corner of it) was rocked recently at the news that Marcher Lord Press had signed a deal with Kathy Tyers, the author of the fantastic Firebird series, to not only republish the original trilogy but also to publish a new book in that universe. Maybe Mackel's Birthrighters can find a home at Marcher Lord as well.

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