Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Well, I've decided that this full-on, uber-Catholic blog isn't quite going to work, but I thought I'd publish this review that was (mostly) caught in edits when I headed back to school. I've yet to figure out where this blog will go, or even if it'll get off the ground properly. Fits & starts; Aches & pains.

Children of the Last Days

Having just finished Michael O'Brien's Eclipse of the Sun, I have a multitude of thoughts running around my mind. For those unfamiliar, Eclipse of the Sun and its prequels Strangers & Sojourners and Plague Journal record the history of a family in British Columbia from just following the Great War to the near future. While the apocalyptic theme is introduced in Strangers and Soujourners, and quite present in Plague Journal, it reaches a crescendo with Eclipse of the Sun.

The desire to disbelieve- to hold that the last days are beyond possibility, or at the least far off is a profound temptation. It is difficult to recognize that injustice pervades our society since we are attached to it. We are safe. We are content. We are entertained. This attitude is what O'Brien is trying to remedy. We know neither the day nor the hour; and if the hour should come, shall we recognize it? Or shall we have been too busy piling up earthly riches to see that eternal salvation has slipped through our hands? O'Brien hints in his afterward that we are already within the shadow, and cannot recognize it- once you've read the books it will be a much more plausible observation.

Strangers and Sojourners is a very strong portrayal of a family, and of one woman's spiritual journey, and introduces the themes of Christian humanism which provide the intellectual counterpoint to the totalitarian ideology which underlies the apocalyptic dystopia expressed in the two following books.

Plague Journal is a more classically dystopic work than Eclipse of the Sun. The apocalyptic vision is not nearly as fully expressed as in Eclipse of the Sun, and the structure of the narrative- fleeing the agents of the government makes the work more reminiscent of classic dystopic fiction than the author's own Father Elijah.

Eclipse of the Sun follows a more elliptical plot, and its central characters are either minor characters or absent entirely from the first two volumes. Nevertheless, O'Brien succeeds in keeping threading the stories together and keeping us involved in the plot.

All three of the books require a tolerance for meditative musings, and there exist a certain number of didactic passages, but it was only in brief parts of Eclipse of the Sun in which I felt O'Brien moved from insight to overkill.


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