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Culture Notable Books
Borrowing style and content from the great seafaring tales of Melville, Defoe, Stevenson, and Homer, China Miéville provides an epic story of high adventure narrative set in a future world where trains are great ships and dirt replaces water. Plot: Sham ap Soorap serves aboard the Medes, a moletrain searching for the elusive giant moles that prowl the great Railsea. When the moletrain discovers a wrecked train and unearths inexplicable images of a single line of rail, Sham and crew travel to the edge of the Railsea and beyond to discover the truth. Note: Railsea contains complex but striking wordsmithing, and also occasional gruesome violence, a night of drunken revelry, and mild British cursing.
Origin, a first-person, character-driven, romance-adventure written by a Christian and one-time homeschooler, is an engaging speculation on mortality, morality, and love’s sacrificial power. Plot: Seventeen-year-old but immortal Pia, sequestered deep in the rainforest with a team of adult scientists, is trained from birth to one day lead the very project that created her. Then a chance encounter with Eio, a local tribal youth, reveals the dark mystery and deep secrets of her creation—and romance blossoms between Eio and Pia. Teen-targeted, the novel’s detractions for Christian readers are character-consistent mild cursing and Pia’s lustful thoughts of Eio.
This first book in a prequel trilogy to the popular Ender’s Game series traces a first-contact encounter with a race of malevolent, space-faring, insectoid Formics. Fast-paced and filled with multiple character viewpoints, this easy-to-read space adventure does not have the philosophical depth of the sequel but matches it in emotional impact. Plot: Deep in the Kuiper Belt, Victor, a 17-year-old engineering whiz aboard the mining ship El Cavador, learns of the entry into the Solar System of what appears to be an alien ship. El Cavador’s council ignores Victor’s advice to warn Earth, touching off an initial meeting between alien species with dire consequences. The book does contain some mild language and a few references to adult themes.
Count to a trillion
Deeply steeped in the sciences of space flight, philosophy, game theory, and mathematics, this intellectual novel harkens back to the Golden Age of science fiction, when spaceflight was a communal dream and action drove the plots of stories. Plot: Given the opportunity to join spaceship Hermetic and study the alien Monument, neo-gunslinger Menelaus knows that only a posthuman could decipher the artifact, so he injects himself with a dangerous biochemical drug and promptly goes mad. Restored to sanity nearly 200 years later, Menelaus finds the world much changed, but is certain that the Monument still holds the key to humanity’s future. Note: This first novel of a planned trilogy contains some strong language.
While some Christian Bookseller Association (CBA) publishing houses have made forays into fantasy fiction and have always produced supernatural fiction, they have ignored science fiction. “I was told time and again that my story was too worldly for them because of allowing my sinners to be sinners,” says Bryan Thomas Schmidt, whose novel The Worker Prince, based loosely on Moses and the Exodus, earned an honorable mention in Barnes and Noble’s Best Science Fiction Releases of 2011.
“The story,” Schmidt added, “is very family friendly and there is no explicit sex, language, or violence. … CBA standards are so narrow that many writers find we can’t write to those parameters and be truthful in what we write.” Major presses won’t tackle the gritty reality of science fiction, so smaller presses like Marcher Lord Press, Splashdown Books, and Diminished Media fill the void with new, quality Christian science fiction.
—John Ottinger III edits Grasping for the Wind, a science fiction and fantasy blog