Sean O'Hara's Reviews > Kieli, Volume 1: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness

Kieli, Volume 1 by Yukako Kabei
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's review
Aug 10, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fantasy, science-fiction, supernatural, western
Read from August 10 to 29, 2011

Kieli doesn't believe in God. Oh, she's not an atheist, mind you. She thinks God's out there somewhere, just not here -- here being a far-distant colony world that's fallen on hard times. In Kieli's reasoning, God must've gotten bored and returned to Earth while the colony ship was crossing the void.

The problem with her view is twofold -- (1) Kieli's world is controlled by a totalitarian theocracy, and (2) she's an orphan living in a church-run boarding school. However, this is a rather nebulous issue that she's learned to live with. Her more immediate problem is her roommate, who is suffering a slight case of death.

See, Kieli has the power to see ghosts -- this is, in fact, what convinced her that God's not involved with the world -- and this has attracted Becca, the spirit of a student who died several years previously, to her room. Becca's a nice girl but somewhat mischievous -- not to mention her habit of interrupting Kieli while studying.

At the start of the Colonization Day break, Kieli and Becca go to the train station as part of a game Becca likes to play where she pretends she's a real girl going home to visit her family. At the station they encounter Harvey, a man who can also see spirits. This is the first person Kieli's met with the power other than her now-deceased grandmother, and naturally she wants to talk to him about it. Harvey's less than pleased to have a 16 year old girl tagging after him, and we soon learn why -- although he appears only a few years older than Kieli, he's actually the veteran of a war that ended 80 years ago.

This war was fought over the planet's limited resources, but perversely ended up crippling the colony's industrial base. While the central administrative districts still cling to an advanced IT infrastructure and 21st Century technology, the outlying areas have fallen to 20th and even 19th Century levels.

Harvey has with him a radio that's possessed by the ghost of a soldier he killed, whom he is trying to return home so the spirit can pass on to the next plane of being, or whatever it is ghosts do. Through a series of misadventures, Kieli ends up accompanying Harvey and the Corporal on this journey.

The book is reminiscent of King's The Gunslinger with its odd mixture of science fiction, fantasy and Western, of high tech and low, of vast unpopulated lands and ancient artifacts in a world that's breaking down. Harvey feels like a less-gruff version of Roland with Kieli filling the role of Jake -- there's even a sequence where Harvey and Kieli have to pass under a mountain.

Although the copyright page doesn't provide any information, this appears to be a fix-up novel (another parallel with The Gunslinger. The first four chapters read like short stories featuring the same characters rather than a continuing narrative, and its only in the last 60 pages that the plot comes into focus.

This is the first volume of a series, and the ending suggests that the next book will involve sailing across a sand ocean that's infested by sandworms. It's like Yukako Kabei has a list of everything I find cool and is putting them in this series.

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Quotes Sean Liked

“God is a man of such perfect, flawless character that he only watches over everyone equally -- the strong and the weak, the rich and the poor -- and never plays favorites or reaches His hand out to any of them. Oh, what a wonderful God. He can just drop dead.”
Yukako Kabei, Kieli, Volume 1: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness

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