Thursday, 21 February 2008

The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley

CSFF Blog Tour

I have travelled far in the realms of fantasy and sci-fi... to Narnia, Empyrion, Middle Earth, Byntar and Albion, but never have I journeyed so far away as this book has taken me. Nor does anything even come close to the distance we encounter in "The Shadow and Night". As I opened the book and read the first pages, the thought came to me: perhaps this is the story I have been waiting all my life to read - or the tale I have always wanted to write. Well, not quite. But darned close to it.

In the Year of Our Lord 13000, the Lord's Peace is about to come under attack. Over eleven thousand years have passed since the Great Intervention; since that time there have been no wars, indeed no evil at all among humans. The Assembly's far-flung colonies have been created from inhospitable planets over thousands of years of terraforming and atmospheric adjustments.

But I'm not just talking about physical or temporal distance. The people on these worlds are redeemed, almost unfallen, incapable of sin. Far-advanced technologies are a part of daily life, but not overbearingly; simple, useful concepts are a joy to behold, such as the personal diary: a computer, telephone, camera, journal, dictaphone all in one; and the perfection of the Internet to a virtual-reality library containing all the information in the known universe.

The most distant Made World is Farholme, six hundred light years from Earth. Merral, the forester, finds himself an unwilling fighter for the cause of good when he becomes aware of strange happenings at his uncle's farm. The array of characters surrounding Merral is headed by Verofaza, a visitor from Ancient Earth, sent to investigate reports of a possible threat at Farholme.

The sudden re-entry of evil to the universe is all the more terrible because no one has any experience to deal with it, whether on a global or personal level. Temptations go unrecognised at first, and negative feelings are puzzled over as unknowns. Clues to the impending threat are woven in from the beginning, almost utterly harmless to start with, but creeping in with unabated increase of the suspense factor.

The author is an advocate for "slow creation", in other words, God-designed evolution, as this is taken for granted by all the characters. In the story, evolution appears to have passed from being a theory and is presented as a proven fact.

Nonetheless, the writing and the story drew me in from the first page. Descriptions and characters are sharp and vivid, from sunsets to animals to spaceflight, and particularly the unknowing innocence of saintly heroes in the face of insidious evil. Yet they too must grow, and that is what they do.

I’m glad the two books are joined in one volume here, because the first, while ending at a quiet moment, provides no conclusion to the mystery of what is going on. That is the epic quality of these stories; there is no quick-fix solution anywhere to be seen, but at the same time the reader is dragged into a personal journey of unimaginable proportions.

In the second part, things get exciting. If the first part is gripping suspense, then the second is pumping adrenaline. A peaceful people must prepare for war, and the tale moves increasingly from sci-fi to include the realm of fantasy - but it fits. After all, in a tale at the very end of time I would consider it normal for angels and fallen angels to appear. It’s like seeing a war from the inside, up close and personal, with all the emotional reactions of those involved.

Vero changes almost overnight from a timid graduate to a decisive army organiser, studying ancient war histories and pondering a good many Ancient English metaphors along the way. Of course they don’t make much sense to him, but that doesn’t stop him using them. There is also much telling revelation of the first-time soldiers’ initial excitement at battle, followed by the grim horror of reality.

This book will make you think. It will shoot you into the far distant future and make it believable. And it will take you all the way back to the roots of evil, and the triumph of good. If you’re anything like me, it will surprise you, shock you, and bring you to the edge of laughter and tears. You will see yourself in its pages, and you will be reminded of the almighty power of the Lamb among the stars. Certainly a most incredible feat of writing (it took me around fifteen hours to read!) - I look forward to getting hold of the next installment. Much more is yet to come for the people of Farholme.

Author site
Author blog

Be sure and check out the posts by these other bloggers:

Brandon Barr Jim Black Justin Boyer Jackie Castle Carol Bruce Collett Valerie Comer CSFF Blog Tour Gene Curtis D. G. D. Davidson Chris Deanne Janey DeMeo Jeff Draper April Erwin Marcus Goodyear Rebecca Grabill Jill Hart Katie Hart Michael Heald Timothy Hicks Christopher Hopper Heather R. Hunt Jason Joyner Kait Carol Keen Mike Lynch Margaret Rachel Marks Shannon McNear Melissa Meeks Rebecca LuElla Miller Mirtika or Mir's Here Pamela Morrisson Eve Nielsen John W. Otte John Ottinger Deena Peterson Rachelle Steve Rice Ashley Rutherford Chawna Schroeder James Somers Rachelle Sperling Donna Swanson Steve Trower Speculative Faith Robert Treskillard Jason Waguespac Laura Williams Timothy Wise

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