Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Book Review: Frank Herbert & Bill Ranson – The Jesus Incident (1979)

Published by www.nemira.ro

Everyone interested in SF has heard of the Dune series and even most non SF avid fans have thanks to the Dune movies and TV series. But what not everyone is aware of is that Frank Herbert in collaboration with Bill Ranson set up the bases of another shorter series designed in an aquatic universe and meant to be just as captivating almost thirty years ago. The fact that for various reasons it failed to match up the hype caused by Dune is another story.

It might seem a little odd that Nemira skipped the first book in the series and only translated and published the last three books. Therefore “our” story begins thousands of years after the initial events. The central characters are not the people, although there are lots in it among which a few distinctive ones, but two normally inanimate objects, a spaceship and a planet.

A spaceship that has developed a conscience, The Ship, requires of the population it carries through space to worship it and isn’t happy with the way it’s being done. The Ship decides to have its crew settled on a planet and set up the bases of a new civilization there, the future of this civilization depending on whether people find the right way to worship The Ship or not. The problem is that the new environment is not people friendly, it is a world mostly made of water, in which the oceans are populated by dangerous seaweeds while the ground is dominated but deadly creatures.

First efforts to colonize the planet, called Pandora, are being made under the form of a base/lab/fortress where the lead priest-psychologist moves to supervise the operation. A new generation of genetically engineered clones which are meant to be more resistant to the dangers outside is designed. The lack of resources and supplies, The Ship is not exactly generous with them, eventually leads to revolt. Memorable are the night tours around the perimeter defying the native aggressors.

Meantime on the Ship the first priest-psychologist is awoken from the cryogenic sleep as a last attempt to get people on the right track and show them how to worship. He is sent to Pandora, the incarnation of a prophet, to do his work against the current priest suspected of treason. Things have changed since his time, there are original humans and clones living and discrimination between classes is there as expected, while the new breed has no rights at all.

The Ship works on multiple plans always keeping things on a tight leash. Its favorite student is sent to Pandora to initiate contact with the seaweed species based on the theory that it might be conscious and intelligent, an entity that controls the planet and calls itself Avata. In parallel his girlfriend is sent back in time to experience first hand Jesus Christ’s crucifixion.

With a writing style heavy at times, loaded with introspection, reflections on people, life, philosophy and religion, the story is given an adequate ending with an opening for hope and future books.

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Written for “Scrie ca sa primesti…o carte”

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