"This intellectualized sci-fi finale deftly delivers eccentricities and deities that set it apart from most shaggy-god stories."– Kirkus Reviews
Benevolent aliens save humans on Earth from extinction—but discord arises over the visitors’ heretical religious views.
In Moldovan’s (The World Ends Tomorrow, 2018, etc.) sci-fi trilogy, the nation of Esperanto dominated late 24th-century Earth, a planet of 28 billion people. But on Jupiter’s moon Europa, a colony of space folk known as the Fracony was monitoring and directing human affairs. Secretly allied with elites in the Esperanto government—mainly the popular chief executive (“secretary”) Clara—the Fracony came to the rescue after human-caused eco-disasters and plagues struck. Still, only half a billion people survived. With the Fracony now out in the open in this third installment, Clara grants the humanlike ETs (actually alien souls projected across the universe to be born in human bodies) a lab in Antarctica. But the public is displeased by the aliens’ mission: ascertain if Earth was originally a Fracony world billions of years ago, before the solar system’s resident god did a “reset” to create Homo sapiens as obedient worshippers. The Fracony’s polytheist cosmology—numerous gods who are, essentially, exponentially advanced aliens—outrages some Esperanto citizens, especially the tradition-bound priest and “Minister of Religious Affairs” Quinn. Quinn’s anti-Fracony campaign is manipulated by Arram, a leader of a secret society, who covets power. From assassination to media exploitation, Arram uses his allies, agents, and Quinn to remove rivals and turn public opinion against the Fracony. But Arram underestimates Clara, the Fracony, and even fanatical Quinn.
Romanian-born Moldovan offers sci-fi more akin to philosophical musing (with a faintly satirical edge) than anything concretely speculative in terms of future super-science or tech. It would help if readers were familiar (as every 25th-century schoolkid is) with Russian scientist Nikolai Kardashev’s categories of theoretical cosmic civilizations. Type I can use energy to dominate its home world; type II can harness the total energy of its star system; type III can control neighboring systems; and so on, each more godlike than the next. Even in 2427, humanity is only “type 0.” The Fracony are “type V” and not immune to literally playing god, even as the “real” deities they acknowledge may fall in the “type VI” or “type VII” stages. The author toys with religion here in the same way more conventional sci-fi writers handle FTL drives, robots, and exobiology. He throws in some truly inspired bits of Robert Anton Wilson-scale weirdness when Arram wrangles leaders of the other sinister secret societies so beloved of conspiracy fiction (Freemasons, Illuminati, Bilderberg, etc.) for meetings that end up being discussions of Euclidean versus non-Euclidean geometry. Which are important. Still, characters tend to be mouthpieces for ideas and symbols rather than three-dimensional players, and much of the loosey-goosey storyline is left unresolved by the end (the matter of Earth’s God, for example). What’s clear is Moldovan’s condemnation of dogmatic religious mania, as shown in one character’s summation of the dangerous Quinn: “Truth has nothing to do with this guy’s values. His problem is that whatever is not in his holy books does not exist.” No players come forth as Adam or Eve stand-ins, which is a remarkable feat for sci-fi in these territories.
This intellectualized sci-fi finale deftly delivers eccentricities and deities that set it apart from most shaggy-god stories.