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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Challenger's Hope by David Feintuch

My wife asked me to get a science-fiction paperback for myself, to be given at Christmas. I had little time, and saw David Feintuch's Challenger's Hope. I turned a page at random, and, rather to my amazement, saw a prayer on it. So I got it.

I have now finished reading it. The book more or less lives up to its cover--there is a man with a hand weapon, and a monster, on the cover. There are frequent references to prayer, and to God. However, the God that the protagonist believes in is an Old Testament God. There is no love to Him, or from Him, no relationship with Him, just ritual prayer, and following the rules. God's love is mentioned, once, but the main character didn't seem to find any of it.

Back to the contents. Actually, what the book is really about is not the monster on the cover, but the monsters inside of Nicholas Seafort, and space Navy command regulations. The book is written in the first person, and most of it is about Seafort's relationships with his superiors, and, especially, with his subordinates. Over and over, he punishes them, all too often for trying to tell him something that he should be listening to. Over and over, he wonders if he has been too hard on them, and apologizes, and they usually accept this. However, reconciliation is hard. Even shaking hands, between ranks, is against regulations. All this turmoil gets old after a while. I haven't read the first book in this series, and probably won't. I suppose that, in that book, the background of these regulations, the significance of the Navy Oath, and of Seafort's own soul, is introduced. Probably there is more on his relationship with his father.

Near the end of the book, after a harrowing voyage, full of accidents, conflicts, and deaths, Seafort's father comes to meet his son (Their relationship has apparently been very distant and cold). The younger Seafort is convinced that he is damned, because he had to break his Oath. Both times, there were good reasons, and it seems sure that a God of mercy, or even a God of justice, would have understood and forgiven both of these actions. The father tells the son that, maybe, God will forgive him, and, surprisingly, tells him that God is a God who loves.

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