The ZONE genre worldwide books movies
the science fiction
fantasy horror &
mystery website
 
 
home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email

Soldiers Of Paradise
Avon paperback $3.95
Sugar Rain
Avon paperback $3.95
The Cult Of Loving Kindness
AvoNova paperback $4.50

Starbridge Chronicles trilogy by Paul Park

reviews by Amy Harlib

Soldiers Of Paradise (1987), Sugar Rain (1989), and The Cult Of Loving Kindness (1991) comprise the three volumes of the Starbridge trilogy, science fiction set on a distant yet Earth-like alien world where the seasons are generations long.
   The first two volumes function as a continuous extended narrative while the third acts as an extended coda that is vital to bringing the saga to closure. The novels offer entertaining speculative fiction world-building with thoughtful subtexts and will prove rewarding reads for those adventurous enough to seek them out.
   Winter seemed the longest time, the time of rebellions, of famine and disease. In the city of Charn - within its sprawling slums, its castle-covered mountain, and with its curious mix of 20th century type industrial technology mingling with a wide range of alternative lifestyles - it was the time when the Bishop's priests ruled, the priests and the powerful, decadent Starbridge family.
   But now winter was nearing its end and the drunken prince, Abu Starbridge and his cousin, Thanakar the Doctor, forsook the castle for the slums below, mingling with the thieves, heretics and the Antinomials - non-believers without language, responsibility or desire, meat eaters in a society where meat was taboo, dangerous beings who lived free from thoughts, caught up in the spell of their own unique music.
   In this world on the verge of spring with its paradoxical life-and-death-giving Sugar Rains (more than mere water), Abu, Thanakar and Abu's sister Charity were about to be caught up in a revolution not of their making. And before it is over, one of them, Abu, will become a legendary martyr, while the others would become outcasts, fleeing their burning city for the dubious sanctuary of an enemy land. Along the way they would discover a truth far older than religion and witness the events that would permanently transform their world.
   The Cult Of Loving Kindness concludes the tale by portraying events a generation after what was depicted in the first two books as described above. It is the story of two twins - a boy, Rael and a girl, Cassia, growing up in a primitive jungle village through the alien years of a summer that lasts a generation. As a resurgent civilisation from the far away city of Charn expands across the world towards them, the pair of protagonists get swept up in the mystery and ecstasy of a new religion growing in the wilderness to challenge the accepted faith. The implication of all this is of endless cycles, eternally repeating, with the twins as avatars reborn from earlier times. Again, mystical beliefs flourish in a world still maintaining industrial level technology amidst cultural diversity.
   The Starbridge Chronicles are very ambitious and impressive first novels depicting a complexly conceived world in which the characters are frequently portrayed being overwhelmed by vastly larger forces of nature and by the social/political/religious chaos that ensues in the wake of the transition from a seemingly endless winter to spring and then again, to summer.
   Park's narrative shifts from rather too brief segments focusing on the protagonists to descriptive passages concerning larger political and religious events which read a bit too much like a history textbook. Although everything described is endlessly fascinating and inventive, this has the effect of distancing the reader from the story and it is a relief to get caught up in the emotional intensity of the scenes that focus directly on individuals. These are gripping enough to make it worthwhile to persist through the remote and detached parts. Paul Park's inventive world-building concepts - memorable, decadent scenarios, bizarrely mixing industrial tech with a wide variety of cultural types - inevitably invite comparisons to Aldiss' Helliconia and Gene Wolfe's New Sun and comes close, but doesn't quite measure up to these masterworks by mature writers. Still, the Starbridge Chronicles are definitely worth reading for its distinctive and provocative treatment of politics and religion and society interacting as seen through the entertaining prism of an ingenious work of fantastic fiction.
   Alas, the Starbridge trilogy are out of print, at time of writing (June 2004) but copies at reasonable prices can be found through online book-finder resources.
Soldiers Of Paradise

Please support this
website - buy stuff
using these links:
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com
Send It
HK Flix
WH Smith
Argos.co.uk


Sugar Rain

The Cult Of Loving Kindness


home  articles  profiles  interviews  essays  books  movies  competitions  guidelines  issues  links  archives  contributors  email
copyright © 2001 - 2004 Pigasus Press