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Notable Books

Books | Four science fiction/fantasy novels

Issue: "Terrific and timely," June 29, 2013

The Legend of Eli Monpress

By Rachel Aaron

Aaron combines lighthearted comedy with an epic quest to save a soul. The thief Eli Monpress has one goal: to increase the bounty on his head. But as his value rises, so does his fame, leading the Spiritualist Court—the arbiter of spirit-based magic in the kingdoms—to send Miranda Lyonette to hunt him down. The novel questions whether ends justify means and if an amoral man can achieve redemption via self-sacrifice. Will Eli destroy himself to save a young girl from the demon entwined in her soul? Cautions: mild, occasional profanity and bloody violence.

The Emperor’s Soul

By Brandon Sanderson

In this Hugo-nominated novella, Sanderson ponders the themes of art’s influence and moral rebirth. The forger Shai understands objects so deeply that she can change their fundamental natures. When the bolt from an assassin’s crossbow leaves an emperor brain damaged, his advisers task Shai with creating a replica of his soul to reanimate his still-breathing body. Should Shai remake the emperor as a lover of righteousness or return him to his epicurean life of indulgence? Will she make him a David or a Saul? And should such an act be undertaken without the subject’s self-will? Christians will appreciate how the complex magic system aids the theme of spiritual renewal.

Quintessence

By David Walton

In an alternate Age of Exploration, the world is flat, alchemy is a respected science, and Europe is embroiled in religious turmoil. When his daughter is attacked and poisoned, Dr. Parris embarks on a voyage led by unscrupulous alchemist Christopher Sinclair to find a cure—and discovers a lost world containing primordial matter granting extraordinary powers. Walton (see sidebar) uses the story to consider scientific ethics and debate: Why are Christianity and science competing ideologies in the modern world when once they were not? The pro-Christian conclusion drives the action-adventure plot, which finds evil in the acts of men—not God—and it is the material man wishing to best God who discovers that life consists of more than his mortal coil. This thrilling novel blends fantasy, philosophy, and science.

Blood Song

By Anthony Ryan

Abandoned by his noble father and raised by a priesthood of warriors, Vaelin is dedicated to the Faith. But the blood song sings through Vaelin, calling him to a destiny that may destroy him, his warrior brothers, and his religion. Ryan explores how—and if—a moral, faithful man should disobey his rightful king and his religious leaders. When is fighting for a cause a just war, and when is it merely political self-aggrandizement? Vaelin must tread the fine line between love of his country and his religion and true virtue. Well-developed, relatable characters and suspenseful fight/battle scenes enliven this fast-paced fantasy in which faith, politics, and personal morality collide. (Cautions: rare swearing, a few implied sexual encounters, and the potty humor of young boys.)

Spotlight

David Walton
Handout
David Walton

David Walton, a member of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia and father of seven children under the age of 13, writes science fiction because it is “a genre of literature that trades in profound issues like human origins, the nature of truth, the certainty of death, and existence beyond our physical bodies.” He says Christian writers “shouldn’t abandon this rich genre to the secular world.” His first novel, Terminal Mind, won the Philip K. Dick Award, and he recently published Quintessence (Tor Books, 2013), “a fantasy novel exploring the conflict between scientific and religious modes of thought.” He says, “I hope Quintessence will help challenge the genre to treat religious beliefs in a more realistic and honest fashion.” Walton says the novel “doesn’t preach. The characters struggle. They doubt. They wrestle with discoveries that seem to conflict with what they believe. That’s something anyone can relate to, regardless of their religion or background.” 

—John Ottinger III edits Grasping for the Wind, a science fiction and fantasy blog

John Ottinger III
John Ottinger III

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