Werner's Reviews > Infinite Space, Infinite God II

Infinite Space, Infinite God II by Karina L. Fabian
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's review
Nov 06, 13

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, books-i-own, short-stories
Recommended to Werner by: My Goodreads friend Andrew
Recommended for: Science fiction fans
Read in June, 2011 , read count: 1

April 6, 2011
My copy of this anthology was a gift, earlier this year, from one of the included authors, my friend (on and off of Goodreads) Andrew Seddon. (I see that as of today, the above Goodreads entry doesn't have all the contributors listed, so I'll try to remedy that when time permits!) As the description suggests, the stories here are science fiction from a Christian, and specifically Roman Catholic --or at least Catholic-compatible; not all the authors represented are themselves of that faith-- perspective. There are 12 stories, written by 11 authors; one story has two authors, and co-editor Karina Fabian has three included stories. (I'd encountered her work previously in Firestorm of Dragons, and consider her a rising star in Christian speculative fiction.) Recently, while waiting for a book that was coming in the mail (which has now arrived), I started reading in this collection to pass that time, as usual not reading the stories in order. So far, I've read nine of the selections, starting with the authors I was already acquainted with. All of them are fine examples of the storytellers' art; this collection exudes quality! It's impossible to pick a single favorite.

Andrew's story, "The Ghosts of Kourion," blending his interest in SF and Roman history, is the lead story in his otherwise unpublished story cycle about the adventures of Robert Cragg, time-traveling British historian from the 27th century. (I'd previously read all of these stories, including an earlier version of this one, but this final version has much more depth.) The concept might remind readers of some of Connie Willis' work, but the plot, style and spirit of the work is uniquely Andrew's own, and the story displays his trademark excellent writing and well-incorporated serious research. In the first Sky Songs collection (2002), I'd encountered Colleen Drippe' through her excellent story "Lost Rythar." She's represented here by another great story set in a far-future human-colonized galaxy, on Rythar, a frigid planet whose humans have regressed (though retaining some high technology) to a socially primitive and warlike clan-based culture, but on which Roman Catholic Christianity, brought by off-worlders, has begun to spread. (A quibble I have with the tale here, however, is that I don't share her pacifist position --and in fact, the historic Catholic teaching on the matter is closer to my "just war" philosophy than to her view.) Fabian's "Frankie Phones Home" is a fairly light-weight yarn, a sequel to a story in the first Infinite Space, Infinite God anthology, which loses a lot if (like me) you haven't read the first one. But her other two stories here are outstanding. My other favorites here so far (I said I couldn't pick one!) are Derwin Mak's "Cloned to Kill" and Alex Lobdell's "The Battle of the Narthex." More to come, another time!

June 2, 2011
While between books recently, I dipped back into this anthology, and decided to read the longest selection (at 58 pages), "Dyads" by Ken Pick and Alan Loewen. Unfortunately, this one proved to be a bitter disappointment, like finding a section of maggot-infested fruit in an otherwise perfect banana split. That's doubly unfortunate, because the authors have considerable stylistic skills, create a really interesting alien world (their world-building is superb), and set up a scenario that could have offered a really serious speculation on the question of possible alien races that might have their own distinctive revelation of the true God and a salvation history distinct from ours. That opportunity, however, was squandered, and replaced by an exercise in pre-Vatican II style anti-Protestant polemic (actually, hate literature), with noble Catholics contending against a caricature of Protestantism that embodies every invidious stereotype ever vomited onto paper, and then some --including the ever-reliable Protestants-as-terrorists scenario, although for some reason the news media has missed reporting on all the Baptist and Pentecostal suicide bombers who must be out there. Gaaaggh!

June 26, 2011
The last two stories I read to finish out the book marked a welcome return to the quality of the first group, especially J. Sherer's "Tin Servants," set mostly in the war-ravaged, exploited Africa of 2147, in which the continent's current miseries and the abusive potential of robotic technology is extrapolated in all-too-believable fashion. This story manages to be hopeful without harboring any illusions about the worst that the human species is capable of. John Rundle's "Basilica," in which a scarred and crippled priest (with an engineering and military background) is summoned before an ecclesiastical inquiry, in a far-future human-colonized galaxy, to explain what went on in connection with his "hijacking" of an Admiralty spaceship is gripping space opera, as exciting and readable a story as any of its type. Here, though, the author's dubious choice for villains turns out to be the ancient (4th-5th-century) "heretical" sect of Priscillians, supposedly handed down for all these generations in secret and now emigrated into space. Granted, since there are no real-life Priscillians around any more, demonizing them seems less offensive and off-putting than the demonizing of Protestants in "Dyads." But the implicit message still seems to be that "heretics" are BA-A-A-D, and are so precisely because they're heretics. (The teaching of the Priscillians, by now, is fairly obscure; but one tends to suspect that they weren't really into cosmic genocide.) Since Vatican II, the response of the mainstream of the Catholic hierarchy to the "separated brethren" has been much less hostile than it used to be; but not all of the authors here necessarily got that memo. :-(

Overall, a four-star rating for the collection as a whole --and many of the selections would easily deserve five. I haven't read the original volume, of which this is the sequel, yet; but it's certainly going on my to-read shelf!
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Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Great review, Werner

Werner Thanks, Stephen! I'll actually finish it sometime in the future --I generally read story collections in installments, as it were, so wind up reviewing them in installments, too. :-)

message 3: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol Kean I love both these anthologies and reviewed them for the November 2013 issue of Perihelion Science Fiction. My favorite (yes, it's hard to narrow it down to just one!) has to be the one other reviewers disapprove of, "Dyads," and I've been searching for evidence that Pick and Loewen are still working on the novel that was growing from the two short stories ("Mask of the Ferret" in Book One launched Fr. Heidler). Jill Noir, the ferret/human, must return in future adventures with our elderly but able priest. How sad for "Dyads" to be dismissed as anti-Protestant rhetoric. It's as richly imagined as a Tolkien novel. Catholics have been lampooned and condemned long enough. Fundamentalists surely can take a beating as well as Catholics do. At least Christians, whatever the denomination, take their lumps without issuing death threats to critics (Salmon Rushdie, Dutch cartoonists). So, Pick and Loewen, how soon will you deliver that sequel? :-)

Werner I edited my review above, just now, to correct a typo I caught in the last paragraph.

Carol wrote: "Catholics have been lampooned and condemned long enough. Fundamentalists surely can take a beating as well as Catholics do." Well, to be sure, both Fundamentalists and Catholics take abuse without issuing death threats to the abuser (as Carol also pointed out). But I don't think it's constructive for either to be abusing the other --and that goes for Protestant anti-Catholic hate literature, in the vein of the Jack T. Chick tracts, as well (though I didn't happen to be reviewing the latter here). "He hit me first!" is a typical defense I hear from my grandsons (the oldest is eight), but it doesn't work as well for adult Christians, who need to remember that in a cosmic life-and-death war against Satan and the forces of darkness, we're supposed to be fighting together, not against each other. (And yes, the world-building in "Dyads" IS "richly imagined;" I wouldn't take anything away from it on that score!)

message 5: by Terence (new)

Terence Nice review. I'm sorry I missed this when you first posted the review because the anthology sounds very interesting.

Werner Thanks, Terence! I highly recommend the anthology.

message 7: by Paula (new)

Paula Cappa Insightful review, Werner.

Werner Thanks, Paula!

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