Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Discovery Book Tour: My Review
On Monday, we heard from Karina; in particular, she shared how she came to write science fiction and fantasy with Catholic themes. Today, I will share my own take on Discovery. Did it work as a story? Was I drawn in? Was there anything that fell flat? My answers to all three questions are yes, yes, and yes.
Let's tackle the world-building first. Discovery is set in a far future in which mankind has already colonized the solar system and begun taking advantage of its resources. Recognizing that the space-faring life entails unique challenges and unique dangers, humanity's space pioneers - including St. Gillian, who established the religious order in which Sisters Ann, Tommie, and Rita serve - drew up a code that was originally meant to reduce conflict among spacers and keep them safe. Over time, however, some have adopted this code as an alternative to traditional religion, and in Discovery, this cult of the Code is a source of interpersonal conflict between the novel's principals. The question: Is this evolution plausible? Can the Code described in the novel really satisfy man's spiritual urge? Personally, I'm not so sure. While history presents us with plenty of materialistic, atheistic ideologies that have persuaded and inspired many - like Marxism, for one - I didn't get the impression that the Code has the same explanatory power.
There were also moments when Karina's characterization was a bit heavy-handed. Merl, for example, felt a little too cookie-cutter; while there are segments of evangelical Protestant Christianity that harbor strong anti-Catholic sentiments, most evangelicals do not share those beliefs with quite the same bombast. Perhaps Merl could've been counter-balanced by a milder Protestant in order to give our separated brethren a fairer portrayal. Additionally, the change of heart that Merl displays towards the end of the novel seemed to come with no explanation at all. One minute, he is supporting Cay; the next, he's horrified. What happened in between?
One last criticism: Generally speaking, when an author puts a gun on the wall, the reader expects it to be fired -- and is disappointed when it is not. And to be honest, there was one element of Discovery that engendered exactly this sort of disappointment: the object that was supposedly on a collision course with the Folly. Early in the book, much was made of this mystery object; indeed, its presence forced the crew of the ET to radically alter the timetable for the mission. But was that the object's only purpose? The novel never ties up that loose end.
But enough with the critique. Let's talk about what Karina gets very right. To put it simply, Discovery perfectly captures the wonder of the universe. Despite the flaws discussed above, I couldn't help but be drawn in by the novel's central mysteries. Further, while some characters didn't quite gel for me, others were explored with admirable depth. Rita, for instance, felt very real; her conflicts and anxieties were fully relatable and all too human.
Would I recommend Discovery to others? For the most part, yes. I'm not sure how this book would work for readers who are not already convinced of God's existence. But for the believing and the otherwise open-minded, this will be a solid read.
Final Verdict: Recommended -- With Qualifications