The epistolary novel (a novel written in the form of journals or letters) has a long history going back to the 17th Century. It's uncommon these days,The epistolary novel (a novel written in the form of journals or letters) has a long history going back to the 17th Century. It's uncommon these days, but Brian Sfinas has adopted it to write an imaginative and sometimes brilliant work of science fiction.
The Darkest of Suns Will Rise consists of a series of official reports and the journals and letters of principal characters. From these Sfinas constructs a terrifying and only too credible world of the future in which much of humanity lives and dies on space stations without ever setting foot on Earth. With its population at a sustainable level, the planet's ecosystem is healthy once more. Macaws have been genetically modified to be as intelligent as humans. Nano robots clean up messes, from smudged walls to demolished space ships, by deconstructing them at the molecular level. They heal injuries and disease, doubling the human lifespan. Super-intelligent and benign aliens known as the Pronogsticate monitor the governance of human beings.
Sound like paradise?
Not exactly. Human nature hasn't changed.
A secretive group called the Orphanage range through space, plotting the overthrow of the Prognosticate and the rule of reason. The Orphans are the few remaining believers in God. The military commander Aiden DeCaro is their chief enemy. He detests their destructiveness, irrationality, and rebellion, but he harbors the same traits in himself and works to conceal them from the probing of the Prognosticate.
Aiden also keeps Clarissa, his lover, hidden in his cabin on board the ship he commands. Their relationship is sadomasocistic in the extreme. He kills a man who accidentally sees Clarissa and feels little remorse for doing so. The love affair between Aiden and Clarissa forms the emotional core of the story. His political struggles and fight against the Orphanage unfold around it.
Despite the brilliant conception and fully imagined world, the writing occasionally falls short. In a novel like this, errors in grammar or usage can be a way of creating a distinct narrative voice, but not when they contradict the character's intellect and education, as happens two or three times with Aiden.
In the middle of the story, Aiden spends time on Earth writing in his journal. He ruminates at length about economic and political conditions in the early 21st Century. Although many of the author's observations are astute, they seem extrinsic to the story and slow it further at a point where it's already dragging.
Finally, there is little or no foreshadowing of the abrupt ending. I anticipated it a few pages ahead because I saw nowhere else for the story to go.
Overall, the novel's many strengths outweigh its few weaknesses. The Darkest of Suns Will Rise is a haunting novel, remarkable for its complex characters and intelligent vision of the future.
The Elements of Active Prose is a concise guide for writers of fiction. The author offers concrete and practical tips for making one's prose style morThe Elements of Active Prose is a concise guide for writers of fiction. The author offers concrete and practical tips for making one's prose style more effective and includes advices on how to work with editors and make productive use of criticism. Beginning writers need the information in this book, and more experienced writers will find valuable pointers about craftsmanship and the benefits of a positive attitude....more
A coming-of-age novel set in America in the late 70s, Sandra Hutchison's The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire centers on the relationship between David,A coming-of-age novel set in America in the late 70s, Sandra Hutchison's The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire centers on the relationship between David, a physics professor in his 30s, and Molly, the teenage girl who used to babysit his daughter. Molly doesn't babysit for David anymore because his wife and daughter recently perished in a plane crash. He is too overwhelmed by grief to take care of himself, so his estranged sister hires Molly to keep house for him.
Molly has problems of her own. Her parents are divorced. Her father loves her but now has another wife and children, a family where she has a marginal place. She mostly lives with her mother, a notorious and uninhibited artist who commemorates Molly's first period by constructing the figure of a girl with tampons and, of course, exhibiting it publicly. Molly's schoolmates call her Tampon Girl.
The physics professor doesn't seduce or become obsessed with the teenager, nor does she have a girlish crush on him. While David struggles with grief and survivor’s guilt and Molly negotiates the minefield of adolescence in the 70s, they develop a friendship that's hard to categorize but easy for people in their small town to misinterpret and condemn.
Sandra Hutchison writes beautifully transparent and unpretentious prose. She creates complex characters and a vivid sense of place. Most of all, she tells a compelling story full of sorrow and humor with a benign detachment that leaves room for readers to draw their own conclusions. In other words, she's a first-rate writer.
Some readers might be offended by Hutchison's frank depiction of sexual situations and nonjudgmental treatment of behavior that is usually condemned. They may dislike the somewhat open ending. But if you don't read fiction to find emotional security and have your beliefs validated, if you're just looking for an excellent book, I strongly recommend The Ribs and Thigh Bones of Desire. ...more
I like the story and the main character. She seems shallow at first but gains some depths as the plot progresses. Some of the clothes and hair descripI like the story and the main character. She seems shallow at first but gains some depths as the plot progresses. Some of the clothes and hair descriptions were too long and detailed, and the exposition fest three quarters of the way through slows things down just when they ought to be accelerating. Still, there are some nice twists at the end....more