This is the first Christian fiction book I’ve read in ages; the first I’ve really actually liked, and the first where I’m actually tempted to read the sequels to. This surprises the heck out of me, because usually I find reading contemporary Christian fiction (and non-fiction for that matter) a hard row to hoe. Christian though I am, whenever I read Christian books, I usually peeve, complain, and quarrel with every other sentence.
That’s not to say I didn’t find myself groaning a few times, because seriously, reading Christian fiction requires a certain mindset, especially because the rules for Christian fiction are a little different than the rules for general fiction. But even then, Lelia Rose Foreman plays with those rules quite well and also quite humourously.
Shatterworld is primarily a young adult book. Therefore it has all the required tropes such as teenaged rebellion, generational gap issues, preachy parents who –because they don’t want to upset their kids-- aren’t telling their kids the “entire” family story.
But Shatterworld is also speculative fiction, and this is where it excels an even surpasses most Christian speculative fiction. The novel recounts the voyage of the Star Flower and its settling of New Earth by spiritual pilgrims who fled their oppressive country. The comparisons between the settling of the Americas and the settling of New Earth goes even further. But, there are subtle differences. For instance, the star-traveling pilgrims are very respectful of the aboriginal sea-dwelling hexacrab natives of New Earth. They struggle to understand each other’s phyla/species/order/kingdom and grow to understand each other’s linguistics, culture, history, and fears. Our Pilgrims are very careful about bringing theology into their conversation and so far – the book is part of a trilogy—have not set about attempt to save any hexacrab souls. The settlers are respectful and as curious about hexacrab history as the hexacrab are. There is no notion that the hexacrabs are the Hivites/Perrizites/Jebusites etc who must be overthrown in order for God’s people to have their manifest destiny. There is sharing of resources and goodwill between the pioneers and the hexacrabs who are seen as perhaps members of The Creator’s Other Folds.
At least that’s what it seems like so far. The new settlers are of all races – a multicultural Christian community a bit like the Amish or Mennonites, so they are respectful of sentient life wherever they find it and however it has evolved or been created by the Creator. It’s a rigid, (some might say over-disciplined) community. And perhaps they had to be all those years of warp travel, but some youngsters-- like Rejoice, our main protagonist—chafes under it. There is the basic truth that they have to farm and terraform the new world, but there is also the age-old rural vs urban /agrarian vs industry /utilitarian vs heart’s desire issues. Rejoice wants to be an astronomer but, like every other Christian teen, has more than her share of rules to obey and has to endure parental spiritual speeches all meant to challenge what they believe is her selfishness.
So I liked this book a lot and I’m even interested in discovering more of this community, and learning more about hexacrab communities, and wondering how the two worlds will grow together. I also liked the “puritanical” names. Very funny.
As for what I don’t like: The book is a bit light on description. I would’ve loved to see the world better. There are many characters and many times there are scenes where the author throws many characters at the reader so that we can get the communal overview. But still, there could’ve been a less crowded way of doing that. In the end, many secondary characters are reduced to their job description or their personality. It makes the book read faster because we know what each character is like. But still. Certain sections feel rushed: The growth of the friendship between the hexacrabs and the humans. The ending of the book. But all in all, it was a fun quick read.
The book comes with a study guide at the end.
I received this book free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.