Genre: Science Fiction, Action-Adventure
Date Published: March 3, 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Print Price: $12.58
eBook Price: $5.99
Those familiar with the short stories of Colleen Drippe (particularly those involving the Star Brothers and the world of Lost Rythar) will know that she is an accomplished creator of unusual worlds populated with complex characters inhabiting detailed societies and cultures. In Gelen!, her second published adult novel (the first, Godcountry, was released in 2002), she takes us to Networld 57, otherwise known as Fen.
Humanity has expanded among the stars by means of the mysterious starnet. Thousands of years before the time of the tale, tendrils of the starnet touched down upon Earth and transported ancient Visigoths to Fen, there to develop and change. Once humanity mastered the starnet as a means of interstellar travel, Fen and its inhabitants became ripe for discovery – and exploitation.
To the peoples of Fen, the newcomers – the occupying forces of Net Central who took over the planet after a war – are aliens. To the humans of the developed worlds, the tribes of Fen are equally alien, especially the gelens – those possessed of empathic and psychic powers (some of whom had been used as “mindbreakers” during the war of occupation); the “shadows beneath the sun”, the scapegoats of their people, at once despised and respected, useful for their gifts but feared; those for who good and evil have no meaning, and who in consequence become unbalanced.
The tribes of Fen – Enjiks, Nikoens, Haveks, Drayaks – are pagans, some worshipping the sun, others the moon. Their overlords are also divided into contesting political parties – the Constitution Party, the ruling Interstellar Nation Party, and the liberal Freewarders fighting against Net Central – whose influence on Fen varies from benign to dangerous.
Because of the gelens and their unusual powers, Fen has been cordoned off. But the missionary Star Brothers are not dissuaded. Fr. Anselmo Ruiz and Brother Kurt bor Dareth are assigned to bring Christianity to the Drayaks, not knowing the plots and counterplots that are swirling about Fen – not only between natives and occupiers, between tribes, but between the gelens themselves.
Fr. Ruiz struggles to understand and reach the pagans, and particularly the gelens – especially Elerek Ennerson, a former mindbreaker used and discarded by Net Central. This is a struggle that well resonates today, as our society is assailed both by paganism and secularism. Fen is a world under the sway of ignorance and madness – something that has occurred all too frequently in human history and which presents a very real threat to our own society. History teaches that a society without Christ is particularly open to the workings of evil, as is becoming all too obvious in various parts of our world.
As a counterbalance, Drippe also presents the converse – of pagans attempting to understand Christianity, of being so in darkness that they can barely comprehend the light. We see the same in our society today, where darkness has so overwhelmed the minds of many that not only do they not see the light, but do not even realize its existence – or worse, even believe that the light is darkness. Hence the necessity of the Church to shine the light of the Christ in the darkest places of the world – which might be right next door to us.
Gelen! is an intensely Catholic novel – there are cultural aspects as Fr. Ruiz attempts to bring the Faith to pagan Fen, ably assisted by a pair of Lost Rythan Faring Guards. The moral themes of sacrifice and redemption (the second cannot occur without the first) assume vital importance as some of the natives come to understand and have faith in the “God behind all gods”. Implied is the fact that we too may have to sacrifice in order to reach our pagan world. And God’s grace is at work in and through His servants even as Fen descends into conflict – one in which the very survival of the gelens is at stake.
Drippe provides a helpful listing of characters, a map, and a glossary of terms. The volume is rounded out by a collection of five short stories set on the same world. These stories, “The Gelen Who Loved Trees,” “The Fate of Tara Marre,” “The Gelen Who Went Into the Cave Alive,” “The Blind Man Who Learned to See,” and “When the Sea Made War on the Land” don’t have any direct connection to the story, but do expand upon the cultures and mythology of the world that she has created.
Gelen! is an intricate, complex, well-written, and rewarding novel by a talented writer. It is a welcome and worthy addition to the ranks of Catholic science fiction and is highly recommended.Publisher: Rafka Press
Original Language: English
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