Visions of Paradise

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Awhile ago I read the anthology The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction, and it contained a story entitled “The Farewell Party,” by Eric Brown. It was a very slow-paced, deliberate story about Earth being visited by an alien race called the Kethani who offer all humans the option of being implanted with a device which will enable them to be resurrected after death, at which time they will have the choice of either returning to life on Earth or serving as emissaries of the Kethani to distant stars.

I learned soon afterwards that “The Farewell Party” was part of a series of stories about the Kethani which were recently released in book form as Kethani. All the stories take place in the same English village where a small group of people meet every Tuesday night at a local pub. Each of the group gets their own story in the book, which is a traditional fix-up which works very well. One man is a “ferryman,” the name given to humans who work for the Kethani transporting deceased people to the “stations” where they are revived. Another lost his wife shortly before the arrival of the Kethani, thus she was never implanted or revived. He buried his grief in an affair with a student who planned to study philosophy in college but had no intention of being implanted herself. Another member of the group was never implanted himself, and we learn why in a long story about his falling in love for the first time at middle age.

All the stories in Kethani are slow-paced character studies examining how the lives of typical humans have been affected by the arrival of the Kethani. Although we have glimpses of the Kethani in human form, they still remain mysteries to us as well as to the people in the book. But it is not their identity which is the issue, but rather their effect on humans. As the stories accumulate, gradually we get a stronger picture of how life on Earth has changed due to the miraculous intervention of the Kethani.

Kethani is far from being a classic, with several obvious flaws. The individual stories tend to have a sameness about them. People who refuse implants gradually become alienated from those who have them. Divorces among the core group in the pub are all too common, and they demonstrate very few strong emotions other than love. But still Kethani is a very interesting book, resembling fix-ups such as Pavane and A Canticle For Leibowitz in its structure, although not in its theme, being a much more optimistic book than either of the others. While it is certainly not on the level of those two classics, it does compare favorably to them in enough ways to make it highly-recommended.


  • I'll have to add this one to my "buy" list. I already have Helix and Necropath by Brown on my to be read stack.
    He is another one of the author's I have not read but plan on trying.

    By Blogger Jim Black, At 7:26 PM  

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