The Disestablishment of Paradise
by Phillip Mann
Dr. Hera Melhuish, leader of ORBE – a scientific project on the planet Paradise – is upset. Not only is ORBE’s role on Paradise being cancelled, but the planet is being disestablished. In the future humans don’t just colonize planets. Instead they try planets out for some time then determine whether or not to colonize longer term. In some cases, like the planet Paradise, a decision is made that the planet will never be hospitable enough for humans and so it becomes ‘disestablished.’ That’s what happens here.
What ensues is the story of how Hera deals with the loss of her scientific pursuits, her time with her team of researchers, and also her connection to the planet. She is blessed with a repreive to stay on the planet during disestablishment (where all human things are removed or torn down), thus giving her several month’s time to spend with herself. What she finds is that the planet is much, much more than just a rock in space. Could it also be sentient in some way?
What’s fascinating about this book is how the story is told. It is written from the perspective of Hera through interviews given with the ‘author,’ a female children’s book writer who is chosen by Hera to document her life and the story of Paradise. Occasionally, the story will pause while a dialogue between Hera and the author ensues, many times a transcript from a recording during the interviews. This breaking down oft he third wall by the author character works really well. Coupled with the world building of the actual author, Phillip Mann, where not only is the world deeply but fantastically realistic, but end notes and an appendix of short stories from ‘settlers’ and other pioneers on Paradise fill in backstory via footnotes. It is deep and rewarding to read the stories or even the introduction once the book is over to really make sense of so much that happens.
As to the story itself, [SPOILERS] I have to say that I found the main thrust to be weak. That Paradise is somehow sentient or physic in some way was far too naturalistic a way to describe the powers we see. With the telepathy and leylines or physic power this is almost a fantasy novel rather than science fiction. That a planet could be sentient isn’t the issue, but rather the conclusions of Hera and the author on the causes of the powers and the point. Rightly summarized, I think, this is a cautionary tale of human avarice and how that darkness can destroy untainted things. Very Adam and Even in the Garden. But with an odd conclusion that didn’t bring home that message. No lesson is learned other than Hera’s which is to open herself up to metaphysical science (divination, psychic communication, etc). [END SPOILERS]
I also found that the book took a very long time to build momentum. It wasn’t a slow buildup, but rather a meandering one where readers may have been wondering about the point for most of the 500 plus pages.
All in all, this was a well developed world written well, but that moved a bit too slowly for the first half and that didn’t satisfy this reader in the conclusions. Still, a read worth your time.
@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.
This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.