The Secret Book of Sacred Things (book, Torsten Krol, 2011)
From SFX #219.
Four and a half stars
Author: Torsten Krol
I see a bad moon rising
Human civilisation has been slammed back into the dark ages by a space rock in this science fiction yarn.
The sisters worship the Moon, Selene, who was knocked from orbit by a rogue asteroid many years ago. Their young Scribe Aurora (Rory for short) writes Selene’s name over and over again to ensure she does not fall further from the sky. But this feminist idyll, where the nun-like Sisters rule over one of the last outposts of humanity, is set to undergo change.
Told by Scribe Rory through the eponymous secret diary, Secret Book is an essay on selfishness, ignorance and the redemptive nature of human empathy. Rory is marvellously observed, a 12 year-old who takes adolescent egocentricity to the cusp of sociopathy. When Willa joins the sisterhood from the only other known human enclave it sets in train a series of events that are amplified through Rory’s churning feelings and relentless vanity.
In Secret Book, nature outmatches both humanity’s will and institutions. In the face of the indifferent universe people can only do what they think right, wrong as that often may be. Rory is perspicacious despite her selfishness, discovering that it’s only the way we care for each other as we strive that really matters.
Occasionally the epistolary nature of the story is artificial – Rory delivers a series of well-timed twists and revelations with uncharacteristic patience – otherwise the book is bold, old-fashioned SF of the very best sort.
Did you know?
No one knows who publicity-shy author Torsten Krol is, but the name is widely suspected of being a pseudonym for a well-known writer.