Friday, February 1, 2013

The Land of Oz meets the Book of Genesis

Book Review: The Lost Dragoneer (The Chronicles of Susah, Book Two)
The Bible doesn’t tell us much about the centuries that span from Adam to Noah. Adam’s surviving sons, Seth and Cain, go their separate ways and then, in the words of Spencer Tracy’s character in Inherit the Wind, the book “goes into a lot of ‘begats.’ ‘And Aphraxad begat Salah; and Salah begat Eber’ and so on.” Lamech begets Noah, but before we get to the ark and the Flood, we're told (Genesis 6.4):

"There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God come in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown."

It's an intriguing passage, but sadly lacking in detail. Recently, author C.D. Sutherland has stepped in to fill the gaps. The Chronicles of Susah transports us to a world with all the elements of other magical lands like Oz or the Harry Potter universe: a gifted protagonist, a dangerous journey, a wise old mentor, and of course, giants in the earth.

The Lost Dragoneer is the second and most recent installment in the series. Susah, the daughter of Noah, has little interest in her father’s insane boat building project. She has left home and put her ability to control animals with her mind in the service of the Dragoneer Corps, a sort of dragon-powered air force for the nation of Sethica. As The Lost Dragoneer opens, the Sethicans have just won an epic battle against an army of ogres. It is a bittersweet victory for Susah, however. Most of the dragons are dead or dying and Susah must rebuild the corps. Locating and taming wild dragons is the easy part, though. Susah must also confront vicious ogres, bloodsucking trolls, temptation by Satan, and her own vanity.

Politically, Susah’s world has much that is familiar. The story takes place in a time of transition. The old system of tribal government has given way to a Council of Elders, which spends most of its time taxing and regulating – and undermining the military. Much of what we learn about the political situation comes from the hotel owner Keenan. When Susah tells him how lovely his hotel is, he replies proudly, in a pointed reference to President Obama, “I built it.”

But it’s the way Sutherland intertwines his tale with the Bible that is the unique feature of The Lost Dragoneer. “I began with the Scriptures,” he explained to me. “Anything in black in white must remain and is off-limits to alterations in my story telling. Using that approach, everything between those gaps are gray-areas and by definition free-game for my extreme fiction. After some of my fans started calling my first book Antediluvian Steampunk, I agreed the term is more descriptive than just ‘Religious Sci/Fi Fantasy'”

Sutherland says that some religious traditionalists have chafed at the technology that he injects into Biblical times: there are blasters as well as swords, skyscrapers as well as castles. Nevertheless, I think most Jews and Christians will appreciate the familiar people and places from the core of their faith. Everyone, even jaded atheists such as myself, will appreciate the captivating story.

Based on some internal chronology, I reckon that The Lost Dragoneer takes place 80 years before the rains start to fall and the animals come on by twosies-twosies. That affords ample opportunities for sequels: I look forward to many more installments in The Chronicles of Susah.

Michael Isenberg is the author of Full Asylum, a novel about politics, freedom, and hospital gowns. Check it out on Amazon.com

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