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Curse of the Shamra
Barry Hoffman
Gauntlet Press, 271 pages

Curse of the Shamra
Barry Hoffman
Barry Hoffman was born in New York. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and Temple University. After college, he moved to Philadelphia to get into the Teacher Corps. He's been there since 1968 but still thinks of himself as a New Yorker at heart, returning whenever possible. He is perhaps best known as the publisher and editor of Gauntlet magazine. His Gauntlet Press produces editions of classic books the way their authors intended them.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Interview: Barry Hoffman
SF Site Review: Judas Eyes
SF Site Review: Born Bad
Cemetery Dance
Gauntlet Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

At first glance, the peaceful Shamra would seem to have everything a society could want. Their time is spent at satisfying work, rest, and celebration. True, the bounds of tradition keep women from full participation, and the holy men are determined that nothing will change, but they know nothing of the danger creeping ever closer. The Shamra wonder at the dark shadows circling overhead, then give it no further thought. Only a few feel a touch of what they will learn is the Curse of the Shamra.

Dara is one of those disturbed by the sudden appearance of strange creatures over the countryside. But, Dara is a very different Shamra, one who dares to challenge the fixed, submissive roles of females, dictated by the ancient laws of the Prophets. When disaster descends on her people, Dara's rebellious spirit may be the Shamra's only hope for emancipation from alien rule.

To save the Shamra, Dara will do the unthinkable; travel far from home into foreign territory, a journey no Shamra in memory has attempted. What perils and peculiar sights she will encounter along the way to find help will defy even her vivid imagination and test her courage and leadership. If she survives the adventure she just might find the allies she needs, but will they be enough to rescue the passive, dependent Shamra?

Barry Hoffman's latest book may seem miles apart from his controversial Born Bad, but both deal with the lethal possibilities of refusing to recognise a threat when it exists. Curse of the Shamra, aimed at younger readers, is entertaining enough to engage adults. The lessons here are ones that most adults have yet to learn. In a world where a new war, conflict, invasion, etc. seems to explode in our faces every day, the facts of war are something our children must come to understand at an age where their only concern should be whether there will be brussel sprouts at dinner.

We try to protect our children, even in war zones where missiles and bombs are devastating the landscape. Without isolating a young person from the outside world, there is no way to prevent this awareness of humanity's ugliest side. The best solution is to broach the topic in a way they can understand without being overwhelmed. Dara's quest for freedom for her people opens the door for further discussion.

Dara's solution is not an easy fix; the Shamra can never again be what they were before the invasion. Not if they want to survive as a people. How will the realities of armed combat and occupation affect the tribe? What happens to a peace-loving society when it is forced to fight? Is it better to suffer under a tyrannical leadership than to risk lives in revolt?

No satisfying answer to these questions has ever been discovered. Perhaps you and your children will uncover something new. Maybe you will come to an understanding you can live with. If you find the solution, don't keep it to yourself.

Copyright © 2003 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction, horror, dark realism, and humour. DARKERS, her first novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She is a contributing editor at SF Site and for BLACK GATE magazine. Lisa has also written for BOOKPAGE, PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Science Fiction Weekly, and SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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