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Culture Notable Books

Notable Books

Books

Notable Books

Four sci-fi or fantasy novels reviewed

Crippled Prince Yarvi takes the throne after his father’s murder, only to lose it to treachery. Vowing revenge on the traitors, the former prince turned galley slave gathers a motley crew of eccentrics to recapture his kingdom. Prince Yarvi struggles mightily before discovering that not all heroes win and the struggle is often more worthy than the victory. This Viking-style adventure, with its violent action and grim landscape, suggests that the worst hardships, borne in good company, can help even half a man realize his true calling.

Soulminder

Driven by grief over the death of his 5-year-old son, Dr. Sommers develops a soul-capturing device designed to postpone death long enough for damaged bodies to be repaired. But Soulminder also provides a path to immortality, leading the ruthless and selfish to covet it. At the moral center of the story is a pragmatic televangelist that author Zahn avoids caricaturing. Told as a series of vignettes, the novel has biblical allusions and a surprisingly sacrificial conclusion. It probes the ethical consequences of new technology, government’s role in it, and the moral dilemmas of its protagonist.

Fool’s Assassin 

Brooding, 50-year-old FitzChivalry Farseer has retired from his role as king’s assassin and confidant. His aging wife shows clear signs of senility. Meanwhile, an old friend calls for help, but FitzChivalry fails to respond. In FitzChivalry’s war with time, superstition, and himself, we experience the Christian’s own struggle with guilt, fear, and regret. The sweet father/daughter relationship at the novel’s core highlights Hobb’s ability to write emotionally complex characters whose relationships are as messy, risky, and lovely as our own. This gentle fantasy meditates on the pains and pleasures of family and the effect of daily drudgery masking destiny’s call.

The Towers

Jeffers’ fantasy of a city under siege by the powers of darkness warns that the external enemy is not always the greatest one. Through his implicit condemnation of institutionalized and works-based religiosity, this debut author points his readers to the person of Christ and the true cost of His sacrifice. In it, true heroes are not those with prowess or power, but the weakest and meekest. Like C.S. Lewis before him, Jeffers effectively uses allegory to tell a story about God’s transcendent power. Cautions: violence and frank discussion of vile sins.

Spotlight

Since man first dreamed of leaving this planet, visual artists have attempted to capture what might be “out there.” In The Art of Space, award-winning artist Ron Miller gathers 350 full-color photographs that trace the history of 2-D space art from the Victorian era to today. The coffee-table-sized book places each work in its social, political, literary, scientific, and philosophical context, and also explains the aesthetic value of each work. Of note: a haunting image of Notre Dame Cathedral standing alone on a cratered moon landscape—a metaphor for religious alienation—and stark images of Soviet propaganda. This informative and beautiful book blends science fact and science fiction and shows NASA-commissioned work alongside paintings for science fiction magazines. Cautions: two instances of heavily stylized nudity. —J.O.