Somewhere, somewhen, there’s a village with a peculiar steam house. Patrons come from miles around for a restorative, pore-opening steam bath, but the locals know there’s more to the place than meets the eye. The steam house can be a dangerous place, because it will bring whatever is lurking inside you to the surface, and we’re not just talking about sweat.
Fourteen-year-old Sisko enters the steam house as part of a rite of passage for the village youth. He emerges transformed, and with a mission. He’s given a ring inscribed with Hebrew letters that read, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and along with it, the power to pray for, and receive, miracles.
Word quickly spreads of the young miracle-worker, and Sisko travels far and wide, helping everyone he can. He has adventures, many of them fraught with danger and deprivation. Always hovering in the background is the temptation for Sisko to use his power selfishly, to meet his own needs. If he succumbs, the blessing of the ring will become a curse.
Infinite Realities is an unconventional story written by an unconventional author. Some reviewers have called it an allegory, in the tradition of Pilgrim’s Progress, or Hinds Feet on High Places, and there are certainly some echoes of that kind of storytelling here. Sisko’s adventures are told in a series of episodes in which he confronts a particular problem, and each episode can be interpreted as a sort of parable about real life.
Mr. Copple is also an Orthodox Christian, which gives him a perspective that many readers, Christian or otherwise, may not have encountered before. It’s mostly expressed in the themes the story focuses on: the danger of pride and the corresponding importance of humility, the idea of faith as a journey that involves great personal struggles, the nature and significance of miracles, and the integral role of other believers in our growth and ultimate salvation. That’s a lot of heavy stuff, but Copple weaves it into an engaging story with a light touch. I finished the book with the sense that I had learned some important lessons along the way, but I’d need a few days to fully process them and understand them.
Infinite Realities is a quick read, only 97 pages in all. It ends with a short, insightful essay by the author about the relationship between fantasy and Christianity that provides a strong argument against those who would say that fiction in general or fantasy in particular is a frivolous waste of time.
Sisko’s adventures continue in the sequel to Infinite Realities, Transforming Realities, which I plan to read soon. For more information about R.L. Copple and his writing, check out his webpage at http://www.rlcopple.com/.