Saturday, November 1, 2008
Eric Brown: Kethani
110 000 high towers appear out of nowhere evenly spaced around the world. The Kethani have arrived, and they come bringing a gift of immortality for all humans. Everyone who wish can be implanted with a little device which monitors life functions. If that person dies, it “saves status” and calls for a “ferryman” who transports the body to a tower of Kethani. Six months later the former dead is able to return in perfect health in both body and spirit. Of that period the returnee has only vague memories involving living in house surrounded by meadows studying many different things with emphasis on philosophy. At the end of that period everyone is given a choice: To return back to earth and to the one self’s former life, or to go to the stars and help the Kethani in their work. If one chooses the space, there are practically limitless opportunities from exploration to sociology and archeology.
Everyone returning from the death is a better person, even the worst sociopath or dictator is a whole, empathic human being. No-one, not even the returnees has ever knowingly seen any of the Kethani race.
All this just the background of the story. The book tells stories of several people from a small village frequenting the same pub. Stories of how the change in the world affects them and their families and friends. The main character changes in every chapter, with his own problems and tragedies. Not all of the characters get through their stories without dying, but for most people death is just a phase of life. However, not for everyone, as there are people who for religious or other reasons don’t want to have the implant
The real, ultimate motives of the Kethani are left open - there are however a few glimpses that everything might just not be so simple they have told for the humanity, but at least there doesn’t seem to be any sinister plot to destroy the humanity.
This is a good, well written, very enjoyable, enthralling and even moving book. The characters are fascinating and some who you really care about. And there is really a lot of food for a thought to be found. This is one of the best, if not THE best book I have read this year. Something which will be found on my Hugo nominations next winter.