Thursday, May 27, 2010

Review: Purgatory by Mike Resnick

Recently read Mike Resnick's 1993 book Purgatory, the first in a three-book series. What a great read! I couldn't put it down. As you may know, Resnick is one of the most prolific and successful of Science Fiction writers. His books and stories have appeared everywhere. What you may not know is that Resnick, like myself, has a passion for Africa, and he uses it a lot in his work. We have corresponded and chatted about this, and he sent me several stories, but this book is tops.

Purgatory is the story of Karimon, a distant planet rich in minerals, discovered by a Republic who then try and colonize it and exploit its mineral wealth. They are opposed by local tribal leader Janalopi and a Republic missionary, both of whom, are eventually brushed aside by the colonists with total disregard.

As the colony develops and the natives become more and more frustrated with their low status and living conditions and the loss of 90% of their land, they start to protest, eventually launching a guerilla rebellion. The Republic leaders brush it off as minor nuisance but eventually find themselves slowly becoming overwhelmed. A new breed of native leader, educated in Republic schools and aware of Republic culture, take over the rebellion and lead their people with new strength.

The book is rich with flavor and strong characterization. The story centers around Karimoni and Colonist characters from various eras in the planet's development and their interactions. Resnick uses African history here to address injustices and issues often ignored in an outer space setting. The best science fiction uses the futuristic settings, technology, etc. to teach us or remind us of something about ourselves or our past, and Resnick does that here to great effect.

Purgatory is one of the best reads I've found in science fiction so far, and I look foward to reading his follow up books Paradise and Inferno very soon. Highly recommended. For what it's worth...

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