Religion and science clash in a post-apocalyptic adventure.
Brothers Clive, 18, and Clover, 16, accompany their father, a traveling minister for the Descendancy, to the hinterlands. An encounter with people hiding “the anathema”—technology—leads to tragedy and death. What’s left of the band travels home to the Anchor. Clover returns to his studies in the Library, the repository of all of humankind’s knowledge from before the great Conflagration. Clive joins the church’s Protectorate in a holy war against a scientific academy called Sophia and a tribe of women warriors. Wallach builds a plausible world with richly evocative descriptions of action: “And now the two silhouettes reappeared….One of them unfurled to human height and began hurtling pell-mell for the pumphouse, like an angry piece of night.” But while individual scenes and characters come to life in beautiful writing that will send some readers to the dictionary (“She escaped into the fresh night air, into the tranquil chaos of the sylvan biome: arrhythmic clicking of crickets, plangent hoots of owls”), the real challenge of this series opener is its structure of multiple storylines. The rather thin main plot is likely to be expanded in future volumes, but here it’s framed by a tantalizingly brief prologue, interlude, and epilogue, each with its own cast of characters. There are few indications as to the racial and ethnic makeup of this future American West save the occasional Spanish name sprinkled among the mostly English ones.
A provocative novel of a society riven by subterfuge and zealotry. (Science fiction. 14-adult)