Sunday, October 17, 2010

'Refracted' by Sheila Deeth: Shockingly Original Fiction

Refracted by Sheila Deeth (Gypsy Shadow Publishing) is the kind of book that starts out by making the reader wonder, "What am I reading?"

After the first chapter or two, you might think you were in a Christian fiction novel, one that follows child witnesses to Biblical events who tell of miraculous happenings from their own points of view. Soon you begin to realize these characters aren't particularly religious, at least not in any orthodox way. After the third chapter, the narrators aren't quite so innocent anymore, and a bigger picture begins to emerge.

Let me give you a hint: this is a work of science fiction, though one that's told in a particularly poetic voice. It evoked a number of associations for me. Let me name just a few so I can attempt to parse out the flavors of this fantastic dish:

~If you've ever listened to the song "I've Loved You Before" by Melissa Etheridge, you can have some idea of the emotional underpinnings

~If you read The Prestige by Christopher Priest (or even saw the movie), you can have some idea of the strange, eerie type of science fiction this turns out to be

~If you think back to the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series, and how Lord Voldemort split his soul into pieces, you can imagine the meaning Deeth assigns to the colors of the rainbow

~If you read the anthology She Nailed a Stake Through His Head: Tales of Biblical Terror you can have some idea of the various settings.

That's probably all I can say without spoiling too much.

Did I enjoy this novel? Yes, tremendously. I was pleasantly surprised by its twists and turns. I liked the way it subtly invited the reader to walk a mile in seven different pairs of shoes without being overtly political. It is highly relevant to all the religious misunderstanding that's going on in the world, so in that it's realistic enough to carry non-science-fiction fans through some of the more fantastic elements. It certainly gives the reader something to think about.

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