Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Book Review: Archangel, by Sharon Shinn

"From the acclaimed author of The Shape-Changer's Wife comes a stunningly beautiful novel of a distant future--where the fate of the world rests in the voice of an angel. An age of corruption has come to the planet of Samaria, threatening that peace and placing the Samaritans in grave danger. Their only hope lies in the crowning of a new Archangel." (Goodreads preview)
  • Angels have wings, live in eyries, and sing so beautifully that God listens. 
  • God rains down manna from heaven, changes weather when angels fly to the clouds and sing forth their prayers. 
  • God's priests stare at lit screens and the strange symbols that appear there. Once, one was lifted bodily to heaven, came back with strange stories, and was branded a heretic.
In Archangel, Sharon Shinn compliments the reader by explaining the science fictional reality as little as possible. But what a richness comes from those little nuggets of backstory that are a rare and precious part of this novel!

The storyline is a love story: Archangel Gabriel loves the human woman Rachel. This is true because God has decreed it. That Gabriel is an angel who is all God's business and Rachel is a woman who independently seeks acts of love rather than acts of faith creates a tension that elevates religious/political conflicts to the universal values of love and commitment.
"It is his destiny and hers. And Gabriel is certain that she will greet the news of her betrothal with enthusiasm, and a devotion to duty equal to his own. Rachael, however, has other ideas . . ."
Shinn creates main characters who are flawed yet able to seek that which is greater. It is a human journey: helter-skelter, reckless, and lacking a master plan. That harmony prevails is perhaps a sign that Jehovah is more than a spaceship orbiting the planet Samaria.

First published in 1997, this novel is one that transcends the current fads of the market. It is a novel that transcends the genre, equal to Ursula LeGuin's The Dispossessed.

Copyright 2011 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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