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Table of the Lord
Ono Ekeh
Publish America, 216 pages

Table of the Lord
Ono Ekeh
Ono Ekeh, a American of Nigerian (Urhobo) ancestry lives in Waldorf, Maryland with his wife Amy and two daughters, Oviereya and Siobhan, where he owns a Catholic bookstore: Saint Martin Catholic Book and Gifts. An avid writer, Mr. Ekeh also enjoys sports, reading, and listening to music. He was formerly the program coordinator for the Secretariat for African-American Catholics at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, a job he was forced to resign because of his involvement as founder and moderator of both Catholics for Kerry and Black Vote for Kerry. Mr. Ekeh is presently working on completing a doctorate in Theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He considers himself a hopeless news and politics junkie.

Ono Ekeh Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Georges T. Dodds

Let's get it out in the open: here I am an atheist reviewing a work of fiction written by a fervent if perhaps somewhat radical Roman Catholic on the subject of the future of the Catholic church itself. However, my mother's family were Catholic and my wife has studied Anglican (i.e. Episcopalian) theology at the university level, so I'm not entirely in the dark about Christianity. Nonetheless, for purposes of this review, I will leave the theological issues to those whom they may interest, and try to concentrate on the writing and plotting.

Ono Ekeh postulates the appearance on Earth, in the mid-19th century, of a benevolent alien super-culture, the Fenaarq. These loving, enlightened aliens, capable of interstellar travel, apparently have gods (though these are never fully described or defined), and they come to the conclusion that unlike themselves in their present state, humans can evolve into gods (whatever these might be), if they'd only learn to control their violence. The lack of detail in the description of the Fenaarq's seeming pre-contact mixture of polytheism and caste system, makes it difficult to understand the mystical and theological "logic" of their choosing the Christ figure over that of other equally peace-advocating religions/philosophies such as Buddhism or Bahá'í, amongst others. Furthermore, it seems that human blood products can potentially confer godhead and resistance to a disease crippling the Fenaarq back home. One group of the aliens breaks off to exploit the potential of human blood for selfish purposes (complete with the typical alien probing), another remains loyal to the rather vague Fenaarq ethics, while a single individual strikes out as a free agent. The "good" Fenaarq, see the Catholic church and the Pope as the vessel of wisdom and spirituality that will save them and lead humans to evolve to god status, if properly manipulated.

Problem is, the Fenaarq are basically humans in alien suits, their emotional baggage, if one surveys both the "good" and the "bad" Fenaarq, runs the entire gamut of human emotions. When it comes to the evolution of the Catholic church under their manipulation, while some changes seem reasonably predictable, the manner in which such changes are presented gives one the impression that it is, in part, the author's wish list for the Catholic church: more centralized power in the papacy; the rise of a economically and ecclesiastically powerful Africa, particularly in the author's ancestral homeland; the discomfiture of an increasingly secular Europe. There's even a secretive Catholic commando task force, the Blue Core, a sort of sect within the Catholic church, with ideological parallels to Opus Dei, and the capacity to enforce, if benevolently and without loss of life, the churches mandates. Another point that is rather hard to swallow, is that the Fenaarq essentially ignore all non-Christians; only in the image of Jesus can they assuage their spiritual needs. This leaves out a fair chunk of the Earth's population, which apparently are simply irrelevant.

There are some fairly well done episodes, such as when the Blue Core, extracts a Catholic hostage from a rebel base in south east Asia, and some of the conniving and intrigue surrounding the alien manipulators of the Catholic church. However, these are often accompanied by infodumps, or thinly veiled author commentary. While fairly entertaining, the book tries perhaps too hard to cram in all the issues of the day, as its subtitle, A novel about aliens, geo-politics and the Catholic church might suggest. There are also some instances where insufficiently strict characterization of a person or event leads to confusion: e.g., p.163 a man is described: "[...] he had no independent ambition and did not have a political ego problem," whereas on p.165 he is described as "Everything about him was big, including his ego." Similarly, early on humanity (and its blood) is a ticket to godhead, whereas later the blood leads to a the degeneration of alien physiology, while later yet it is found to provide a cure for a disease affecting Fenaarq back home on a far distant planet. Last of all, the ending is ever so convenient, the bad rogue Fenaarq dies repentant, expecting to meet his compatriots in the promised life everlasting, the good Fenaarq returning home having learned deep Christian wisdom.

If you ascribe to Roman Catholicism, you may find certain aspects of Table of the Lord interesting, but in general it is more a veiled propagandist position paper than any sort of a science-fiction novel.

Author Ono Ekeh's Response

Copyright © 2004 Georges T. Dodds

Georges Dodds is a research scientist in vegetable crop physiology, who for close to 25 years has read and collected close to 2000 titles of predominantly pre-1950 science-fiction and fantasy, both in English and French. He writes columns on early imaginative literature for WARP, the newsletter/fanzine of the Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association and maintains a site reflecting his tastes in imaginative literature.

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