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Hand of Prophecy
Severna Park
Avon EOS, 307 pages 

Hand of Prophecy
Severna Park
Severna Park's first novel was Speaking Dreams which was nominated for the Lambda Award. She is a regular lecturer and reader for the Women in Science Fiction program at the University of Maryland. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a regular writer for the magazine, Tangent.

ISFDB Bibliography
sff.people.suze SFF Net Newsgroup for Severna Park
Lambda Award Winners

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Thomas Myer 

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One hundred years after Emirate forces drove the Faraqui slavers from the Frontier, trouble is once again stewing. Led by prophetic dreams, the Faraquis, with their chilling teleology of adrenal supremacy, are swinging back to reclaim their ancestral homes.

Frenna, by bloodline a Jatahn (Favored One), is favored by the Faraqui for her well-culled genes. Like all slaves, she has been injected with a virus that will keep her young and healthy for 20 years, after which she Fails -- dies horribly and painfully as her internal organs shut down.

Frenna escapes her Emirate master in the confusion of war, only to fall into the hands of a Faraqui slaver named Rasha. Because she will not sate his lust, he dumps her in a fight-to-the-death bloodsport ring.

She becomes a trauma medic there, among slaves who slash and cut and disembowel each other. Because the Virus allows near spontaneous healing of injuries in most cases, it is Frenna's job to "put them to sleep" if they are so horribly injured they Fail.

The intense sadism of the bloodsport is more vivid than any description of violence I've ever read, illustrating a bleak future, each fight like a blade of salt piercing my tongue.

In all this, there is a Great Hope. Frenna has discovered a cure for Failure. In the fight pits, she must gain enough allies who believe her, even though Troah, the living embodiment of the Faraqui Hand of Prophecy, would rather have her decapitated. Troah is Rasha's sister, and has been enslaved because her prophecies spoke counter to the Faraqui desire to reclaim the Frontier. Among the fighters, she is one of the Furies, a wrathful goddess instilling religious fear.

There are other vivid characters too, like Hallie "The Rock", a powerful female fighter who literally kicks the brains out of a male opponent. I like this. There aren't enough strong whoop-ass females in fiction. (There is also a tender side, and the sex is touching and well-written.)

And Rasse, a hulking man-animal, bred by the Faraquis as a killing machine. Rasse goes nowhere without lots of medication and restraining chains. Killing another person is more of a reflex than a conscious act for Rasse. Although he is not central to the story, for me he is as illustrative as the bloodsport he is trapped in. Human beings are nothing, until they achieve consciousness and escape the sucking gravity sink of their fates.

Hand of Prophecy is a multi-layered novel. At the very core is fear and love and hate, and each layer above it is different: the gore of amputated limbs and bodily fluids, the politics of relationships, the greed of the bloodsport managers, the intricacies of governmental disinformation, and the desire for freedom.

Copyright © 1998 by Thomas Myer

At one time or another, Thomas Myer has been editor, theater critic, technical writer, really bad poet, minor perl wonk, and Van Halen fan. He is looking for an excuse to go rock climbing.


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