Infinite Space, Infinite God II is a collection of twelve stories that reject the “conventional wisdom” that Christianity is inherently irrational and anti-science, that a spacefaring mankind will shed its religion, like a butterfly discarding its chrysalis, and that any intelligent life we discover will not be religious in any meaningful sense.
Ultimately, though, these are stories about people–ordinary people of faith thrust into extraordinary situations. Their faith guides their actions, and it makes a difference in their world. It’s a practical faith that guides them to serve others, sacrifice their own ambitions, and endure suffering with patience and hope.
This anthology is also unique in that it showcases the Christian faith from a Catholic point-of-view. This means that you will encounter a Church whose structure and practice remain intact and consistent into the future, adapting to change while tenaciously preserving and applying the lessons of its heritage. Human frailty and divine intervention meet in the act of prayer, and wonderful things happen.
I enjoyed this book very much. Rob and Karina Fabian have assembled a nice variety of imaginative tales, serious and lighthearted, introspective and action-packed, from near-space to the other side of the galaxy. Some could happen tomorrow, others are set thousands of years in the future. There’s something for everybody here.
A brief summary:
The Ghosts of Kourion, by Andrew M. Seddon – A lovely, bittersweet story about a time-traveling researcher who discovers the difference between changing history and becoming part of it. I liked the way Seddon dispensed with all the usual tropes and paradoxes of time travel to focus on the human story at its core.
Antivenin, by Karina Fabian – I’m a big fan of Ms. Fabian’s Rescue Sisters stories, about a community of nuns performing search and rescue along the hazardous frontiers of interplanetary space. This time, we meet Sister Rita, an anomaly even within her order–a “dirtsider,” raised on Earth, struggling to fit in, whose experience becomes vital when a simple space rescue is complicated by a very terrestrial threat. If you think the words “nun,” “action,” and “suspense” don’t belong in the same sentence, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
An Exercise in Logic, by Barton Paul Levenson – Sister Mary Julian must match wits and parse theology with stubborn aliens to prevent a planet-busting disaster. Levenson shows us that logic isn’t necessarily the final answer to every dilemma, and gives us a strong, savvy heroine in Sister Mary Julian. He also pens my favorite line in this anthology: “You can’t pray to your god in here! This is the Ecumenical Temple!”
Cathedral, by Tamara Wilhite – A disused church provides sanctuary and inspiration to a dying, genetically-engineered prodigy. A darker story than most in this collection, it provides a haunting narrative of the struggle to find meaning and redemption at the end of a misspent life.
Otherworld, by Karina Fabian – A priest battles old ghosts and new temptations as he attempts to evangelize a virtual world that will be familiar to players of Second Life and World of Warcraft. This story poses intriguing questions about the nature of life, death, sin, and salvation in the context of a simulated reality.
The Battle of the Narthex, by Alex Lobdell – Treachery faces off against the power of God (and Saturday night spaghetti) when an unsuspecting congregation is caught in the crossfire of alien assassins hunting a disguised prince. Both fun and thought-provoking, we see events unfold through the eyes of the prince’s bodyguard, a cynical old soldier who may have finally found something to believe in.
Tenniel, by Colleen Drippe – A moving, complex story set in a hostile world, a human colony that has collapsed into tribal barbarism. To prevent genocide, a Catholic bishop must engage in single combat with a vicious warlord, but how can committing sin serve God’s purpose? Ms. Drippe doesn’t provide any easy answers, but does provide a gripping tale with strong characters that showcases the challenge of evangelism on the frontier, where physical and spiritual threats go hand-in-hand, and martyrdom is the rule, not the exception.
Tin Servants, by J. Sherer – Sherer flips conventions when a priest goes undercover as a humaniform robot on a mission of mercy to war-torn Ghana. A powerful story of faith, courage, and perseverance in the face of seemingly-impossible obstacles.
Basilica, by John Rundle – Father Carpizo recounts his role in the hijacking and destruction of a spaceship. A simple repair project goes bad very quickly and both the spaceship and the priest are much more than they appear to be in a story that’s equal parts mystery and action/adventure.
Cloned to Kill, by Derwin Mak – A priest provides sanctuary to a young girl, who’s actually a genetically-engineered killing machine. Is she human? Does a clone have a soul? When her creators come to claim her, we learn the limits of humanity are about more than genetics, as prayer battles programming. I found it a bit predictable, but still moving and thoughtful.
Frankie Phones Home, by Karina Fabian – An epilogue to a popular story from the original Infinite Space, Infinite God. Short and sweet.
Dyads, by Ken Pick and Alan Loewan – A religious and political crisis ensues after a human radical executes an act of terrorism at an alien shrine. The alien society, composed of foxlike vulpinoids and a variety of other sentients reminiscent of animals familiar to us, is presented in lavish detail, as is their religion, which the Catholic Church in the story recognizes as an analogue of Christianity. The story missteps a bit in its portrayal of the fanatic terrorist, which comes dangerously close to caricature, and the novella-length story may discourage some readers, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a moving portrait of forgiveness and redemption at its climax.
I think Infinite Space, Infinite God II stacks up quite well against any collection of short spec-fic you’re likely to find on the shelves this Christmas season. It would make a great gift for any science fiction fan on your list. This is a good read with a unique perspective and will linger in your mind a long time after you’ve finished it.
>>This review is based upon an electronic copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<