I have long been a fan of sci-fi, but have been skeptical of Christian sci-fi as a genre. Several years ago, I read some novels by Jeff Gerke (under the pen name Jefferson Scott) in the sci-fi/tech/suspense genre. I enjoyed them, and wondered what happened to him. Lo and behold, he has started a publishing house dedicated exclusively to Christian sci-fi and fantasy titles, Marcher Lord Press. Of course, titles from this small, new publisher are not available at my local library, so I went against my reading glutton, cheapskate tendencies and actually bought a few titles from Marcher Lord Press.
I was more than pleasantly surprised by Kerry Nietz's first novel, A Star Curiously Singing. This is not a second-rate, knock-off imitation sci-fi novel, but the real deal. Nietz creates a believable, if a little scary, near-future earth, incorporates creative technological ideas, and introduces likable characters in an engaging story. I was reminded of some of Asimov's stories; like Asimov, Nietz weaves a detective story into a future setting, letting the technology and cultural commentary provide a rich background while giving primary attention to an engaging plot. Sandfly, the narrator and central character, is a debugger whose owner sends him to check out a robot who self-destructed during a deep-space mission. That sentence alone requires a large amount of explanation, immersed as it is in the context of the book. Nietz takes the reader directly into that world, so it may take a few pages for you to feel comfortable, but he does so artfully, quickly drawing you in.
Without giving away the story, I'll highlight a couple of story elements that set A Star Curiously Singing apart. First, the cultural context. In the world of the novel, everyone, I mean everyone, is now Muslim. Sharia law is the law, and it's zealously enforced. Nietz doesn't go into much detail about how that transition came to pass, but he does off-handedly imply that the Muslim takeover occurred primarily due to birth rates. It's a little on the extreme side, of course (Catholics have high birth rates, too.), but it stands as a warning to us Western Christians who have small families and whose children tend not to embrace their parents' faith. And before you write off the possibility of world-wide sharia law, keep in mind that there are heads of state in the Middle East whose stated goal is just that, and they have, or will soon have, nuclear weapons.
As a debugger, Sandfly has an implant which not only gives his owner a means of control (think of a training device like you might have for your dog, only implanted in the brain. Ouch!), but the implant also controls his actions when he's alone. Tell a lie. Zap! Steal. Zap! Blaspheme A (The full name of the deity is not spelled out here.). Zap! Yet free will and the sin nature survive. Using this device, Nietz explores human nature and our sin nature in a unique way.
The core of the novel, the singing of the star, makes the story. In a world where Christianity has been successfully quashed, where all reference to it has been eliminated, no witness to God remains on Earth. But, as Jesus said, if we keep silent, the stones will cry out! Why not the stars, too! I love this depiction of God's calling out to his children, even when his children have cut off all communication. I hope and pray we don't come to a place where the whole world rejects God, but if it ever comes to that, Nietz reminds us that creation will not keep silent.
I heartily recommend this book, and encourage you to check out Marcher Lord Press, as well.