Monday, April 26, 2010

Offworld, by Robin Parrish

I'm almost rather snickering putting a "science fiction" label on my post. I'm afraid it will stand alone as the only "science fiction" that I'll read for, oh, awhile.

When I think of science fiction, I usually think of Star Trek. I used to be a Trekker (to be distinguished from a Trekkie) meaning that I liked The Next Generation. Oh yes. My favorite character was Lt. Commander Data, I had myself a uniform (I was 14, ok?) and a tricorder and everything! No joke. I was even a member of the official fan club. Uh-huh! The magazine landed in MY mailbox, folks! I still like a good science fiction movie every now and again (but mostly it has to have "Star Trek" somewhere in the title.)

When Amy asked me to participate in a Faith and Fiction Roundtable, with the recommendation that we read Offworld, I have to say I had my doubts. This isn't really my genre of choice when it comes to books! I thought, however, that it would be fun to give it a whirl. (Follow the Rountable discussion here if you like.)

The intriguing aspect of it was that it was published by Bethany House Publishers which is, of course, a Christian label. Christianized Science Fiction? Well, let's just say my curiosity was piqued. (Of course I liked C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy but, come on now! There's only one C.S. Lewis! And even his space trilogy is a stretch for me!) So off we went into Offworld.

This book tells the story of NASA's first manned mission to Mars. The cast of main characters includes the four astronauts who made it to Mars and back and a girl they picked up upon their return home named Mae. These astronauts, lead by Commander Christopher Burke, return to earth to find everyone missing. They have no idea what happened, but it would initially appear as if earth has been wiped clean of all human lifeforms. Realization dawns and the crew begin to acknowledge that the lives they had been hoping to return to have been eradicated by the removal of their family and loved ones.

The book details their journey from Florida to Texas where they are headed to search for answers. They find a girl named Mae. They have no idea how she managed to remain on earth or why she is with them at all.

I have to say that I could have never read this book and lived a perfectly happy and fulfilled life. Not that it was BAD. Because it really wasn't. It just wasn't my thing. I've come to the conclusion that I'd much rather watch my science fiction rather than read about it.

I'm happy to say that the book wasn't overtly Christian because I can't figure out how Parrish would have made it so. It definitely would have felt contrived if he had weaved the Gospel message into the book in any kind of blatant manner. (To be blunt, I think that would have just been weird.) If I were to like science fiction, I would have to say that I would have LOVED this book because it was just plain crazy, good fun. No objections to it whatsoever. It was your run-of-the-mill stretch of an imagination with an intriguing plot.

***There is a certain mystery about the book and I want to be careful not to give any spoilers to those of you who might wish to read this for yourself. BEWARE OF A POTENTIAL SPOILER FORTHCOMING (which is essential to the point I want to make about the book.)***

All of the above stated, there were two statements that the author included in this book that I found particularly interesting.

The antagonist in Offworld is named Roston and he is doing everything in his power to keep the crew from making it to Houston and discovering his evil and wicked scheme of eradicating the world's population for the good of the world (in his opinion.) The crew discovers that Roston is behind the mysterious disappearance of everyone on the planet. But the explanation that Roston gives for his actions is worth thinking about for a minute. He says, as an excuse for his actions:

"We will succeed in creating a better world, not because we have superior numbers or superior tactics, but because no one exists to oppose us. We stayed here, so we win by default." (Chapter 18, "The Stiff Heart" page 326)
Essentially this: he clears the world of "sin" so that he can inhabit it and make it as perfect as he thinks it ought to be. Instead of a clear savior figure, we're presented with an exact opposite. Christ came to conquer the world and redeem people so that they can come to God through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. He came to pay the price of sin so that fellowship between God and man could be restored. In Offworld the antagonist removes the people to worship himself. There is no redemption. There is a hateful eradication. It's just a compelling contrast to the Biblical concept of a divine savior and I found that an interesting statement to include in the book.

Secondly, there is a crew member named Terry who makes the following statement after returning from their Mars mission:

"We made history!" Terry cried, his voice echoing in the emptiness.
Owen mused without making eye contact, "Is history still history if no one is around to remember it? Learn from it? Continue building the future on its foundations?" (Chapter 2, "The Smoke and Stir of This Dim Spot." page 49)
That is so true, isn't it? History is exceedingly important for us to learn and to grow from. Without other people around, left all to ourselves on a silent planet, what would the purpose of any of our actions be from a human perspective? It's the same reason the idea of being on a dessert island seems so lonely. We're created for relationship and then we are grown and inspired by stories. We have an inner hope for the way we will grow old with those we love and pass down a heritage to others. Without people, life feels empty.

I thought Parrish did a good job being creative in sharing a message in a more subtle manner. Because of the way he handled it, I would have to say that the book is worth reading (if you like sci-fi!)

I'm certainly not trying to downplay any of his efforts by sharing my thoughts. Truly this was just a genre I find myself not so enthusiastic about so you probably shouldn't expect to see much more of it from me. That said, it was intriguing to have to really think through a book and try to review it when it's not really your "thing." I appreciated the challenge of that at any rate and can at least tell you it was "clean fun" - if you like that sort of thing. Perhaps if he had included some Ferengi and the Borg I'd be more interested? (Life is infinitely more interesting with Ferengi involvement!)


As I final note - I'm going to link this up to the I Read It carnival over at 5 Minutes for Books next week because:

a.) I read it at the recommendation/suggestion of book blogger My Friend Amy; and
b.) Lisa read and reviewed this title at 5 Minutes for Books. Follow the link to see what she thought of this one.

I Read It!

The I Read It Carnival isn't until next week which, btw, gives plenty of time to be about the business of reading Tumtum & Nutmeg. (Oh, you thought I was jesting when I said I intended to nag about those books? HAHA!)


Ronnica said...

You really should give Sci-Fi another chance. The Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card is wonderful and full of interesting philosophical and spiritual discussions (including several of those quotes I had yesterday). And, unlike Offworld it doesn't have hard-to-follow action sequences (actually, very few action sequences).

Stephanie Kay said...

I'm sorry, all I can think is "Carrie had a Star Trek uniform?!" I'll confess that I also enjoy all forms of Star Trek (though I've never read the books OR the magazine). I can even do the Vulcan hand greeting and might have tried the Vulcan sleep hold on my brother a time or two. :) What would a person have to do to see a picture of the 14 year old Carrie in her uniform? :) :) :) :)

bekahcubed said...

A uniform and a tricorder but you're not actually a Trekkie? I thought those two items made one an official Trekkie (and you were in the official fan club too?)

I'm going to say that you're a recovering Trekkie and still in denial. :-P

Queen of Carrots said...

Connie Willis counts as science fiction. You liked *To Say Nothing of the Dog*, didn't you? You could read *Bellwether* and then have a second sci-fi tag. Or if you want something more serious and thought-provoking, *Doomsday Book* or *Passages*.

Carrie said...

A TrekkIE likes Star Trek (the original series.) A TrekkER likes the Next Generation. I betcha didn't know there was a difference, eh!? Well, if you had been a member of the Official Fan Club you would know that!;D haha!

I'm officially a TrekkER although I have nothing against Tribbles.

QOC - I DID like To Say Nothing of the Dog. Very much, actually! So yes, I guess I could like it...maybe if I tried again.

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