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The Alleluia Files
Sharon Shinn
Ace Books, 480 pages

John Jude Palencar
The Alleluia Files
Sharon Shinn
Sharon Shinn is the author of three previous novels: The Shapechanger's Wife, Archangel and Jovah's Angel. She is a 1996 John W. Campbell Award nominee, and winner of the 1996 IAFA Fantasy Award.

Sharon Shinn Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Alleluia Files
An Interview with Sharon Shinn

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

When I read the cover blurb on the first book in Shinn's pseudo-biblical SF Samaria series (Archangel, Jovah's Angel), I had to shake my head. The basic premise was far from original in the annals of the genre; in fact, it had always seemed kind of silly to me. Shinn, however, has made it work.

Generations ago some religious zealots built a spaceship called Jehovah and sent a bunch of colonists across the light-years to settle a distant planet and live simple Old Testament-style lives of peace and prayer. A powerful computer aboard the ship was programmed to provide assistance to the settlers only in response to particular hymns sung by special colonists known as Angels. Angels are genetically engineered to look like, well, angels. They have fully functional wings. They're beautiful and strong. And only their voices have the proper pitch and intonation to activate Jehovah's computers in time of need. The right song will summon rain to ease drought (since Jehovah controls the planet's weather); different songs can also gift colonists with medicines in time of sickness, or food -- literally, vitamin-enriched manna from heaven -- during famine.

Over the centuries, however, the colonists have forgotten their origins and come to believe the Angels prayed directly to God, Jovah, rather than to a machine. Only one tribe, the wandering "rebel" Jacobites, suspect the truth now, and they've dedicated their lives to finding proof: the lost "Alleluia Files," actual documentation which reveals the truth about Jovah and the settlement on Samaria.

Not everyone wants the truth, if indeed it does exist, to be uncovered. A faction of Angels, led by the Archangel Bael, who fears loss of power and influence, are hunting down and killing Jacobite agents, all in the name of wordless Jovah. Fortunately not all the Angels have joined Bael's pogrom against the Jacobites. When the Angel Jared saves a Jacobite woman named Tamar from Bael's wrath, she tells him about the Alleluia Files. Eventually Jared takes up Tamar's cause and together the two undertake a dangerous journey to find the Files.

As in her previous books, Shinn relies on unlikely romance between members of opposing forces to tie the story together, adding a certain predictability to the plot. The story drags in places, but successfully builds enough momentum to an exciting finish. The levels of both intrigue and romance are high and, despite a certain tendency to make the bad guys all uniformly bad and the good guys equally good, once again Shinn has created plenty of characters to care about. Even better, the book stands alone well enough that those new to the series won't feel as if they're missing anything important. Both fans of the Samaria series and new readers should find this a more-than-satisfying conclusion to Shinn's angelic trilogy.

Copyright © 1999 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.

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