Thursday, April 19, 2012

Review of The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

The Obsidian Blade
By Pete Hautman
2 Scribbles
Tucker is thirteen when he sees his father, the devout Reverend Feye, disappear through a hazy disk-shaped area just above the roof of his house. When his father, the Good Reverend, returns a few hours later, he is much changed. Suddenly, everything Tucker knows and thinks he believes begins to change, and his family stability begins to shatter.

At first glance:
It is difficult to evaluate this novel on sheer surface entertainment value. There is a great deal of confusion involved for the reader as Tucker, his father, his uncle, even his mother, travel to and from different historical and futuristic periods. That does keep the reader engaged to some degree because it is impossible not to want to know how everything turns out for Tucker and his family. So from a tension and action standpoint, the novel moves forward rather quickly. Also, there are some interesting characters in the novel, for one, Reverend Feye—a man of unshakable faith whose faith is shaken. Awn, a Yoda-like character who (ironically) seems untouched by time, and Lahlia, whose presence in the novel (and soon to be series) is as of yet unclear. The flaw in the novel is unavoidable, the reader is faced with paradox after paradox, and so it is challenging for the reader to organize and make sense of the reading experience in our linear minds. Additionally, the work is planned as a series and the resolution of this first book is unsatisfactory.

Digging beneath the surface:
From an intellectual perspective the story is mesmerizing. There is a great deal going on in this text thematically. It seems that the disks, or "discos" as they are called, enable a person to travel back and forth into different times. In fact, according to Awen "time is not symmetrical," and with this idea some themes emerge in the story. First, time travel seems to create all of mankind’s mysteries; if humans understood and believed that time travel is real then we would not see mysterious events like alien visitations, ghostlike apparitions, or the Resurrection of Christ so mysterious or important. Secondly, despite the historical era or geographical location in the Universe, all humans are at their core evil, and so they leave evil in their wake. And lastly, beings that are not human (aliens) exist and at times do interact with humans.

Peppered throughout the text are also symbolic references that are hard to miss. For instance, Feye literally translated means, "destined to die," which is true for all of us. In this story it is doubly true because characters that travel well into the future, like Tucker and his father, are already dead when they go forward in time. Paradox, no? The Feye might also be a reference to the fairy folk who could trap people in their fairy land while time passed more quickly on Earth. People might spend what seemed like a day in the fairy world to return to an Earth where forty years have passed just like in this book. Father September, another character (sort of) in the text, also has a symbolic name. The beginning of September is the start of the Ecclesiastical Year in the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. And given the events in the story, this cannot be coincidence.

Overall, I probably just scratched the surface of what is an incredibly dense and perplexing read. I asked a reader-friend of mine, John, to read the book with me. As he said, "if you like Star Trek and the Bible, you may like this book." If you have read the book and would like to comment on my review, please do!

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