Jane lays a thin veneer of sci-fi over a spiritual allegory in her debut novel about a boy war refugee in the future who travels with two extraordinary companions and absorbs tales along with way that illustrate both faith and folly.
This story’s future-speak coins the word “fabutale” as a 22nd-century synonym for “fairy tale”—just what this narrative aspires to be. Earth of the future enjoyed a relatively tranquil century after an international governing body idealistically abolished weapons, downsized polluting industries and technology (especially transportation; walking made a big comeback), and discouraged—without outlawing—organized religious worship. But not everyone cooperated, especially with the part about getting rid of weapons. By 2162, rogue nations have ignited global war. Young Jal Valhyn, a boy in an unprepared society, is left alone after his parents and uncle ominously vanish in military duty. Beckoned by a disembodied voice calling itself Simeon, aka Syntee, Jal embarks on a pastoral footpath in the company of two amazing, seemingly divine messengers: a talking swan named Sammi and a talking butterfly named Bea. While en route to their safe-haven destination, Jal hears parables of places they pass and people they meet. There’s a city-state of arrogant Savants who ruled using pure science, only to become a domed prison with inhabitants frozen in ice; a paranoid population who enclose their boundaries with illusory fire; and people who sacrifice fame, wealth and power to instead serve Syntee (or upper-rank disciples of Syntee) on “missions.” Late in the loose plot, a rather absentee God is mentioned as the “Owner King,” who will ultimately come and heal the suffering planet. In the meantime, Jal is counseled to wait patiently with his new friends. Readers will parse out stand-ins for Jesus, the Holy Ghost and Satan, since metaphors are more pervasive here than in The Shack (2007) or even Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Thankfully, though, sermons cautioning against secularism, cynicism and (possibly) disarmament never get too intense, due to a consistent bedtime-story tone and somewhat cutesy language; characters relish making alliterative phrases and impromptu rhymes. Readers in parts of Kentucky and North Carolina may be extra interested, as the author, a resident of the region, borrowed the Blue Ridge terrain for the landscape of her little pilgrim’s progress.
A nonpreachy but twee tone helps a fuzzy fantasy spread the good news of Christian positivity in troubled times.