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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Jovah’s Angel (ISBN: 0441004040) and The Alleluia Files (ISBN: 0441005055) by Sharon Shinn. New York : Ace Books, 1997, 1998, respectively.

Back on September 6 of this year, when I wrote about Angelica, Shinn’s latest oeuvre in her Samaria chronicles, I suggested that although I had read the first in the series, Archangel, I needed to read the rest. And now I’ve done so. It was definitely a rewarding experience. All of these tales of Samaria are well written, with deftly drawn characters, whose motivations and experiences drive the plot lines, as the reader gradually learns more and more of the realities that lie behind this fascinating world.

Essentially, the inhabitants of Samaria fled here centuries ago in a powerful starship, which is controlled by an intelligent computer. The original settlers deliberately turned their backs on technology, choosing to live a simple life, close to the land, in an effort to avoid the kinds of terrible destruction and violence that highly technological societies are capable of unleashing on themselves and their environment.

First, however, they used bioengineering to create a race of “angels” with wings, that can fly, but are still human, genetically and biologically. These angels are taught a series of songs that function as prayers, which when sung in the correct locales and situations, can activate various technological mechanisms of the still circling starship. Unstable weather conditions can be mitigated and drugs to treat specific illnesses or accidents can be delivered (they literally rain out of the sky).

The people living on Samaria believe in a literal God, Jovah, who answers these prayers of the angels. They do not know that their God is really a highly technological starship. Exploring and discovering the truth about their God, little by little, is a major theme of all of the Samaria novels. In Jovah’s Angel, one couple, angel and human, learns the truth, and visit the starship. In The Alleluia Files, the information becomes more widespread, with obvious ramifications for their society.

Although each of these novels stands alone, and can be enjoyed apart from the others, I recommend reading them in their original order of publication. And I DO definitely recommend them. This is science fiction at its best, both entertaining and thought provoking, with characters that you really care about, and with a complete world created in great and convincing detail.

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