Iyyam’s sci-fi novel, the first in a planned trilogy, has hints of Dune and Discworld as a destiny is fulfilled amid an interplanetary war between the peoples of Prul and Bekod.
Siglez Ipt falls to the ground on his home planet of Prul with no knowledge of where he’s been for the last decade. Sped on his way by a seemingly omniscient Playwright, who appears to be writing Siglez’s story like the Fates of Greek mythology, Siglez is greeted as a prophesied leader in Afadral. He’s given three tests to prove that he is fit to lead his people on their quest to obtain a seed from the sacred Johr tree on the neighboring planet of Bekod. After passing the tests with suspicious ease, he survives an assassination attempt by the aBekod military leader Intak Jav and then heads into a ritualistic set of battles overseen by Tirla Kto and Sra Ja, the Minders of the respective iPrulautu and aBekod armies. But it seems that the Johr tree might have a stake in the matter. The space-opera plot doesn’t feel too original, and the prose often recalls the flowery, high diction of early 20th-century sci-fi, à la E.R. Eddings or even C.S. Lewis. Meanwhile, the Mars-like landscape and fauna of Prul recall that of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Barsoom, and the 60-plus pages of appendices, maps and local linguistics echo Tolkien. However, the occasional flashes of humor and descents into the vernacular, as well as commentary on writing and storytelling, might leave readers wondering: Is this old-fashioned fantasy or a satirical take on it? Are the tongue-twisting names and phrases in darnathuPrul and SeloBekod (thankfully, translated) to be taken seriously, or are they—as parts of the story imply—parodies of sci-fi/fantasy excesses? Is this a confusing, convoluted book or a cleverly written spoof of one?
A challenging read outside of mainstream contemporary sci-fi, but readers with a fondness for the early classics will find themselves right at home.