Friday, November 12, 2010

Author's own review of Eetoo

About ten years ago, I decided that my writing style and subject matter was too off beat for the mainline Christian audience. Either it was too heavy on the demands of discipleship, or it made Christianity look too Jewish, or it found other ways to bypass the more popular trappings of Christendom. I started to write for the general secular audience -- bigger market share, anyway.

However, if you read any of my novels cover to cover, you will recognise kingdom principals woven throughout -- no, not a "sinner's prayer" tagged at the end, but themes that should help people understand the Kingdom of God without feeling like they're being preached to.

And, yes, some of it will preach to Christians as well. Pepe is a parable of the Kingdom that shows why the Church has operated with more power at some times than at others. The Story of Saint Catrick is about ethnic reconciliation, and The Zondon has the same sort of mix you'll find in C. S. Lewis' Paralandra series. So does Eetoo.

Actually, with Eetoo, I've come full circle. Before you reach the end, you'll realise that it is a blatantly Christian novel. I just hope that atheists and new-agers won't feel betrayed by the sudden appearance of Jesus in the last section.

But it's the "Jesus of History", which again, might be too Jewish for some, the man they called "Yeshua". But I believe I've effectively portrayed the "Jesus of History" as the one that fits with the scripture accounts, and as the One to have faith in.

So, where does it suddenly turn blatantly Christian?

Part three, in a sequence of events that might recall Ben Hur, the characters in the story arrive in Jerusalem in time to occupy a front row seat for passion week. Woven in with their other adventures, are some of the key events of Yeshua's last week, climaxing with His trial, His execution and then, His resurrected presence. In those key events are the answers that the main character, Eetoo, has come looking for. The climax of Yesuha's life thus becomes the climax of the narrative of Eetoo.

But unlike Ben Hur, Eetoo comes from outer space. No, he's not Dr. Who, nor someone who fell of the Enterprise or Voyager (Star Trek). He doesn't barge into first century society with brash 21st century ideas, leaving half baked quasi-enlightenment in his wake. And it's definitely not Alternative History. Eetoo, himself, is from a primitive tribe, and it's already taken him a while to become accustom to cosmopolitan interstellar society with a human presence that dates back to pre-Egyptian times. He's the right person to intrude.

And he does have questions to be answered. The universe is populated by various intelligent species. Some of them, including an old wizened Utz named Neuryzh, are benevolent towards humanity. They understand that humans, though in many ways inferior to the other species, have a unique quality about them that was designed by the Creator, which, if humans would only realise their potential, would make them superior to all other species.

Others, notably the Groki, have had a bad experience with humanity in the past, particularly during the height of Nephteshi empire. The Nephteshis were as imperialistic and exploitative as any human empire ever was, but that's in the distant past by the time our narrative begins. However, it left proof of one thing: humanity is bad.

One Groki, an acquaintance of Eetoo named Blazz, makes a pointed remark:

'Good fine humans. Yes, I know. I've seen some seemingly peace-loving human communities in my time. The problem is, they invariably give birth to a generation of bad ones. A happy stable community now; in one short celestial age what have you? The happier they are, the more spoiled their brats, who will grow into the monsters of tomorrow. '

Of course, Grokis and other intelligent species live long enough to be able to make such observations. Also, their brain capacity is many times more than that of a human, so Blazz also makes the following comment:

'...But you know, it's a fact: Wherever humans have gone, rats, cockroaches and other vermin have always followed. Those three species seem to be adaptable to every sort of climate and condition... Moreover, it's a known fact that cockroaches are as much lower in intelligence than rats as rats are to humans and humans are to Groki and Sozks.'

But Eetoo also has supporters:

Fra speaks up: 'And so, Mr. Blazz, where exactly do you draw the line between what's an intelligent creature, and what's vermin -- if in fact there is to be a line drawn?'

'I should think that would be obvious!'

'Perhaps, to someone as much more intelligent than the Groki as the Groki is to the human, the answer might not be so obvious, Mr. Blazz.'

'Thus spoken by the administrator of the planet! Mr. Fra, I've heard of some of your problems resulting from the human infestation...'

Humans, rats, cockroaches... Eetoo is reminded of the comparison over and over as he encounters the degradation and squalor of various human communities he comes across in his travels, usually due to actions of other humans. The most striking example is Jerusalem and its environs, the city to which Eetoo has gone to seek answers, only to find more questions.

The following excerpt says it best:

One of the religious looking blokes glares at him and spits as he passes. The man just smirks back.

'Probably a tax collector,' says Alexander.

The man and his bodyguards turn into one of the nicer houses.

'Everyone hates them,' says Alexander. 'They work for the Romans, and get filthy rich off it. You'll never see them without their personal bodyguards, or if you do, you'll find them dead next time you turn around.'

'For good reason too!' says a man walking near us. 'You see all the beggars? You know why the countryside's so full of robbers?' He's obviously very religious, the way he's dressed.

'The Imperial taxes, I suppose,' says Nicanor.

'Yes, and if that weren't enough to break one, these traitors collect double their share of it.'

'I've heard that too,' says Alexander.

'And if that weren't enough, there's one more thing.'

'Which is...?'

He gets close to us and says in a whisper, 'Our own Temple tax! Those pagans that run our Temple send their men to collect our tithes, our first fruits -- fruit or no fruit -- redemption of our first-born -- every bit as vicious as the Romans, they are! If people can't pay up, they lose their land. Then, they have no choice but to beg. By the time they realise there isn't enough charity to support a population of beggars, (if they aren't already dying from malnutrition) they do the only sensible thing: join the robber gangs.'

Now, we're about to enter the synagogue, so we quiet down.

At this point, I should acknowledge Shalom Ache's The Nazarine, a very long but informative novel written by a Jewish author. Not only does he set Yeshua's life and ministry firmly in a Jewish setting, but he seems to know his stuff. It's good reading, but I never got through the whole thing -- only enough to populate my description of the life and topography of Jerusalem, the High Priestly family and other aspects of first century Jewish life. I've also learned a lot from my readings of scholars such as E.P. Sanders, David Flusser and other sources related to what's now called "Jesus Studies", including information on the Dead Sea Scrolls, rabbinical literature, Pseudographical literature, etc. I even attended the synagogue for a period (I was tempted to apply for the post of shavos goy), and read bits of the Talmud and Midrashim in their library. I'm fairly confident that if a rabbi or any scholar of first century history would read it, they'll find Eetoo satisfactory as to the technical details. Eetoo also contains a glossary at the back that gives information on some of the details.

In spite of being informative and historically accurate (when it comes to actual known history), it's still got suspense and intrigue.

One of the laws of the universe (in our narrative) is that every intelligent species has the right to live, so long at the planet of their birth is still habitable. Earth, the planet of humanity's birth may be destroyed by fire, unless the Supreme One extends the covenant. (Here, I expanded on an obscure rabbinical tradition that the Earth would have been destroyed a thousand years earlier had Israel not accepted the covenant at Mt. Sinai). If Earth is destroyed, humanity has no right to exist, and the galactic Groki community intends to be their executioner. No one knows the actual location of the planet, so the burden of proof that it hasn't been destroyed, rests on humanity. This is a part of Eetoo's mission.

Eetoo is, in fact, the one prophesied to find the secret door to Earth (a teleportation device, a bit like Stargate), to go to obtain the golden tablets that Noah had given to Shem, that would complete human understanding of things. On finding them, Eetoo finds they refer to events currently taking place in Jerusalem. However, things don't seem to go as they're supposed to. In fact, events take a horrible turn as the key person, who is supposed to redeem the planet, instead gets himself crucified. All is lost ...

Well ...

I also have some ideas for sequels and prequels. The next one would start at the very beginning with Adam and Eve. In our series, we call them Father Red Earth and Mother Life. My working title is The Language. Here's the prologue to the first chapter:

In the beginning was the language, and the language was one. The one language encompassed all of existence. There was nothing, no aspect of anything, nor any description, nor feeling that could not be fully communicated by means of that language.

It was the language used to create. The words, 'Let there be light', included every property of the light that was to be created. The word 'earth' contained the blueprint for earth. The word, 'oxygen', described the subatomic structure of the oxygen atom. The word 'sheep' had within it, the DNA of the sheep. This was the language of Divinity.

The language of humanity was a subset of that. In the same way that the original Language could create matter out of nothing, the language of humanity could create virtual worlds. -- from The Book of Methushalech

Suffice it to say that early humanity was more high-tech than we give them credit for. But that ended at the Tower of Babel, where they lost the Language.

In another sequel: The fiery chariot that took Elijah up was, in fact, a space ship. He became a character in my first attempt at science fiction, an unmarketable novel I entitled Space Brothers, which I may rewrite for this series.

Anyway, you can find Eetoo here...