Empyrion
Stephen Lawhead

Category: Science Fiction
Tags:
Morality: B+
Writing: B

(Note: this book contains two novels — The Search for Fierra and The Siege of Dome — which tell one continuous story.)

Orion Treet is sent to chronicle the growth of a fledgling colony on the planet Empyrion, but the unpredictability of space-time travel lands him several thousand years into the colony’s existence. Now, two opposing civilizations inhabit the planet, and their opposition is coming to a head. Treet and his friends find themselves involved in the conflict, trying to help the people of Fierra, the “good guys”, while supporting the revolutionary faction in the evil empire of Dome. Much action and many near-death experiences ensue.

This book is an enjoyable read — it’s well-paced, exciting, and with fairly well-developed characters. The two civilizations are moderately well-crafted; a few aspects of the out-workings of their societies are left unstated. Fierra, the home of the good guys, is, well, perfect, which makes it less interesting than Dome, unfortunately; Lawhead also succumbs to some downright cheesiness in the depiction of Fierra (more about that later). Lawhead has a knack for capturing dialogue in its most casual, slangy form, and in using it to convey characters’ personalities. All of the dialogue sounded notably realistic.

Lawhead is obviously a Christian author, and spirituality comes into play extensively in this book. The inhabitants of Dome worship a creepy god who is a real and evil spirit, and some of their people are specially trained to be in touch with a spirit familiar who is apparently also demonic. These practices are condemned, the former more strongly than the latter. The portrayal of the religion of the Fieri is somewhat uneven. They obviously worship God, and as the travelers from Earth come into contact with God, I found their conversions to belief in Him effective. The descriptions of God’s working in the lives of human beings are great. The book’s themes include self-sacrifice, giving oneself over to God, and God’s plan for every person’s life. The characters all must come to realize that they are helpless in and of themselves, and must trust God to fulfill his plan for their lives — a plan that He has had from the ages and will carry out, in spite of them if He has to.

Annoyingly, though, the Fieri’s religion also contains some really cheesy vaguely New Age elements. When they’re not being profound about God’s plan for their lives, they’re being incredibly trite about personal feelings or nature or emotions or any number of such things. One of their favorite mottos is “Think no negative thought.” When you’re facing nuclear war, what good is that going to do? Some of the Fieri do come to realize this, at least partly, but I still felt that too much credence was given to lame and trite beliefs like this. I found this aspect of the book pretty obnoxious — not necessarily morally bad, just stupid.

Oh, and the male characters’ attitudes toward women really bugged me. They were totally smitten with every pretty girl they saw. Please tell me real-life males aren’t all so obsessed with externals. I was happy with the way the romantic relationships in the book ended up, though, and at least one of the pretty girls had a real personality and her own issues to deal with, making her more than just a nice exterior.

One other item of note was the book’s attitude toward warfare. The Fieri have taken a vow never to pursue violent action. They do come to realize, however, that sins of omission do exist and that allow thousands or millions of people to die because of refusal to become involved is also wrong. Both the Fieri commitment to peace and Treet’s decision to become involved in warfare are respected.

Content note: Besides lots of war-time violence, this book also contains disturbing/disgusting descriptions of, well, lots of things, including illnesses, torture, and nuclear warfare. In addition, although none of the main characters apparently sleep around in the book (although Treet at any rate is perfectly willing to do so before his ‘conversion’), Dome’s religious practice includes ritual orgies, and some of Dome’s citizens enjoy becoming intoxicated and engaging in licentious behavior. The book is definitely adults-only.

Posted by Sasha | March 25, 2005

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