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Divine Intervention
Ken Wharton
Ace Books, 391 pages

Divine Intervention
Ken Wharton
Ken Wharton graduated from Stanford University in 1992 and received a PhD in physics from UCLA's Laser-Plasma Group in 1998. He did research with ultra-intense lasers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1995-2001. Presently, he is an Assistant Professor in the San Jose State University Physics Departmentand continues to collaborate with Lawrence Livermore. Divine Intervention is his first novel.

Ken Wharton Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

Often I wonder if it is such a wonderful idea for human beings to expand to the stars. There is so much about us that the rest of the universe is so much better off without that it might be better if we stayed confined to this little rock we are in the process of destroying. Does that seem harsh? Examine some of the devout people of Mandala and you may well come to the same conclusions.

Divine Intervention is one of this year's nominees for the Philip K. Dick Award for distinguished science fiction published in paperback original form in the United States. As you plunge deeper and deeper into the novel, it isn't difficult to see why it's being considered; seldom has an author captured the enormous hubris of the creation of a religion or the ease of its breakdown.

The inhabitants of the planet Mandala have spent more than a century cut off from Earth, and in that time they have acquired a society of their own and a religion entirely their own. Or, rather, they have adopted a religion wholly the Captain's (the man who led their scouting mission); a religion that sprung newborn from the man's over-weaning ego, took over a planet, and made him that planet's Prophet. Excerpts from the Captain's log alternate between harmless musing and near-psychotic breaks. This, though, is the religion most of the people have chosen to follow.

And, now, just as they've gotten the planet almost exactly as they want it, along comes a transport from Earth with tens of thousands of new colonists, far more than already on Mandala. That idea doesn't please many on the planet and many of those are in a position to do something about it. Something irreversible. No one even knows they're coming, so who will care?

Nice, nasty idea, but there is a chemo-fly in the ointment -- a young boy who has never quite fit in, never really given their beliefs his whole heart, who talks to his own deity. And Drew's deity is keeping an eye on everything that goes on and above Mandala, so Drew is the first of the inhabitants outside the highest office to know the Earth ship has arrived. How are they going to rid themselves of the unwanted colonists if the boy goes around telling everyone that the ship has arrived?

(A quick aside: will this novel cause even more vicious contention in the deaf community such as there has been over devices like cochlear implants?)

With Divine Intervention, Ken Wharton not only has the guts to take on religion, prejudice, greed, and evil, he isn't afraid to include humour, tenderness, innocence, and hope. On top of all this, he does it in a whipcrack plot that keeps the reader running from one danger to another, without time to catch an easy breath.

Maybe, just maybe, there is enough good in people to make us worthy explorers of the universe. Maybe the decent people could sneak away and leave the scum here -- of course not, that's what makes them the decent people, isn't it?

Copyright © 2002 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

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