When I read about “Visionary from the Stars” by Virginia Lori Jennings, I thought that the genre made famous by Da Vinci Code (ancient artefacts and the search for them affecting the modern lives) has also seen rebirth in Sci-Fi. Though I am not entirely wrong, that does not mean that the book is any less science fiction. And it definitely does not mean that the book is just a space-based copy of the genre.
Jean McClain is a teenage research scientist on a planet called Udoran. While in orbit round the planet, she is “recruited” by aliens called Platonians to “help” them. She is told that another species sends humans on search for an artefact and makes them fall prey to fatal “practical jokes”, and Jean can help save fellow humans by helping the Platonians.
On Moon base, a group of campers come across a cylinder covered in archaic symbols, which turns out to be a part of map, giving the location of a “Galactic Bible”. The group (comprising of a pilot, a family of a botanist and a doctor with their electronics genius daughter and a scientist) is charged with exploring the map and finding the Bible by EASA. They start their voyage abroad “Star Traveler” by getting to Ganymede, where they find second piece of the map.
The map leads them to a planet called Exandra, which is teeming with intelligent species. On Exandra, they meet friends and foe, and help set up a human colony. Of course, their quest and the colony is not safe till they defeat their deadliest enemy by forming some alliances.
The book contains humans like Capt. Mitchell, Dr. Eric, the Kingstons and the Hagans, and aliens like Trib, Tarpin. But the book truly belongs to kids, what with Jean McClain, Laurie Kingston and Chris Hagan getting a major piece of the action. Of these, Laurie the electronics genius as part of original Star Traveler crew (as engineer and back-up pilot) gets to be in the thick of the things.
The kids act quite grown up (Laurie is 11, Jean a teenager), and show quite maturity beyond their ages. But then, that’s not so bad, is it? I mean, there are very few children who act their age when becoming heroes. And I must say that the ECOP (Exandra’s Caretakers of Peace) part of the story is an interesting touch too, as is the underground movement of the followers of “I Am” (the alien name for God).
The biggest positive point I have in favour of the book is that the goal never overshadows the quest. What with the premise (they are searching for galactic “Bible” after all), I was expecting a religious book, which would have put me right off (as it did with “The Third Secret”). But I was pleasantly surprised to see that religious rhetoric is kept to a minimum in the book, and it comes up only when absolutely necessary. I mean, for most time you can replace the word “Bible” with any other book, and that wouldn’t take away anything from the book, which scores high in my book.
The second good thing is the basic premise of the book. I mean, if I ruthlessly cut to the core, the whole Foundation series is a quest for an ancient thing (a planet in that case) which has almost religious status in the lore. So, the theme has a lot of potential to be made into a big series. Of course, the author’s style of writing also plays a big part in this.
It may be that I was hoping for a big series, but I found the first part of the book a bit rushed. I mean, the part till they crew gets to Exandra sounded like kind of a summary to me. But The action does slow down to normal pace when the colonisation of Exandra and the fight for the safety begin later. But then, that’s about the only negative point in the book.
All in all, don’t look at this book if you are looking for a missionary story or a religious one. But if you are looking for a nice and interesting sci-fi novel, do get your hands on it.
Quote of The Day:
Children are wise beyond their years and will learn anything we adults let them learn.
– Virginia Lori Jennings
Cross-posted on Blogcritics.