Monday, 2 April 2007

Catholic science fiction? Seeing is believing...

Review: Infinite Space, Infinite God
Karina and Robert Fabian, Editors

CFRB Tour for April

Are you ready to have your imagination expanded beyond what you thought possible, while doing some serious thinking? Then this is the book for you. This extraordinary collection of fifteen science fiction short stories from a Catholic viewpoint will take you places you’ve never dreamed of. Hold on tight…

Walk beside a priest on a moonbase, then a soldier on Mars, as they each face the question of whether clones and reconstructed people have souls. In fact, the issue of cloning and genetic manipulation is handled from many different angles, shedding much light on the questions that must arise. Part-animal humans appear more than once and are sometimes discriminated against, sometimes beloved by children, and once even rescued by Saint Francis from the hatred of a Middle Ages community.

An unlikely evangelist is abducted by aliens, while in another place the mystical communion wafers are miraculously multiplied on an isolated asteroid. A hermit monk, seeking silence, acknowledges his call to a raucous moonport, and a young girl finds her destiny as a gun-toting bodyguard nun. A century of isolation causes the community on a lost ship to begin worshipping the earth, while two true believers help an unwitting visitor to escape the cult’s clutches. Appearances of Mary and the saints contribute here and there to the launch of a colony starship and the saving of a space station. The last two tales take up the rather more disturbing topics of deadly time-travel and the computer-aided confession of a Catholic terrorist.

These stories cover an immense breadth and depth of subject matter, locations on Earth, on the moon, and in far-off star systems. While I’m not a Catholic, many of the issues addressed are relevant for all Christians, and the things I found strange do provide some fascinating insights into Catholic thought and theology. In short, this anthology blows classic speculative fiction out of the water time and time again with amazing twists on the eternal question: “What if…” while giving you just enough time, in each longish short story, to ponder a little along these lines for yourself.

Each time I picked up this book to read a story, I came away enriched somehow by the multitude of new possibilities opening up around every corner. “What if” really is a much bigger question than I ever thought. The dark side of each new realm of possibility also plays a big part. Don’t expect a bunch of happy endings – rather, expect realistic results in a world that is every bit as tough as our present day, if not even tougher, as man penetrates the void of space. But hope also shines through in the midst of desperate circumstances.

I believe good science fiction should, among other things, always stretch your brain – and that’s just what this collection has done for me…fifteen times over. Watch out world – the Fabians are coming! And it looks like they're bringing their friends...