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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Healer by Michael Blumlein

The Healer by Michael Blumlein. Amherst, New York: Pyr, 2005. ISBN: 1-59102-314-9

Sometimes even my favorite authors disappoint me. I realize that publishers pay authors to write blurbs praising the work of other writers, especially if they are not as well-known. But when I read on the back cover extravagant encomiums from both Kim Stanley Robinson and Ursula K. LeGuin (Ursula K. LeGuin!), it does tend to raise expectations. Expectations which in this case, were not fully met.

This IS an intriguing story, set far in the galactic future, involving two races, humans as we know them, and tesques (short for “grotesques”), a race of humanoid, a few of which have the ability to heal regular humans. Tesques seem to be considered second-class citizens, and are treated as inferior beings, yet some of them have this special ability. The hero of the story is one of them, Payne by name. At the age of fourteen, he is tested, like all tesques, apparently, and demonstrating the ability, is yanked from his family, like his older brother before him, and taken off to be trained as a healer, much against the will of his parents.

The problem, from my perspective, is that we never get any answers to the fundamental questions raised by the story. Where did tesques come from? What is their origin? And why are they considered an inferior race? For the same reasons our society suffers from racism and bigotry, I suppose. But the story raises more questions than it answers.

The book has an almost fairy-tale kind of ending. Payne births a new race of superior tesque-like children, through a method so outlandish I can't even begin to describe it here. The children rapidly mature, although it's not clear if this happens in a few days, or a few years, and Payne leads them off to a remote valley where they seemingly live, happily ever after.

None of this makes much sense, but then, I guess it's not supposed to. It's supposed to be allegorical, or symbolical, or something. In my view, the book only partially succeeds in whatever it is attempting to accomplish. I wasn't convinced. I'd score the book about 4 or 5 on a 1-10 scale, and recommend it only marginally.


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