Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Tuloriad

This is a sci-fi book with an interesting twist. Readers of this blog, those who are among the wise and the few, will know that Ringo’s books typically have a high body count and numerous pitched battles. Well there aren’t any pitched battles, at least not between humans and Posleen. There are some intra-species battles between groups of Posleen, and a small human/Posleen trial by combat. If you look at the large picture of the cover you’ll notice that the soldier seems sort of medieval. Actually that’s a Renaissance uniform, and the soldier is a Swiss guard. After the defeat of the Posleen invasion a small group of Posleen are set on a course that will take them to their ancestral home. The pope worries about whether the Posleen have souls that need salvation, and sends a sentient ship under the command of a Jesuit, who is also married to the ship, who is Jewish, on a mission to spread the gospel. The passengers also include a Muslim imam, and a Posleen family who are Christians. At this point some of you are no doubt throwing up your hands in exasperation. It helps if you’ve read the preceding novels in the series. In that context it makes perfect sense. Ringo, if I’m not mistaken is either a lapsed Catholic, or perhaps a liberal Catholic, while his co-author, Tom Kratman, is a product of Boston College, a Jesuit, and hence nominally Catholic, college. They write, to some extent, in response to the rantings of Dawkins and Hitchens. While not attempting to prove the existence of God, which is difficult in the post-Kantian era, they argue for the importance of faith, particularly faith in the context of a religious war. So they make particular reference in the afterword to the battle of Lepanto. This battle, between Christians and Muslims, helped to stop the spread of Islam into Europe. The authors argue that it was the unifying faith that enabled the Christian forces to defeat the forces of Islam. The obvious parallel, which too many are afraid to see today, is between the war of Islamic jihadism on the West. In this context the left, the “brights” scorn Christianity, and leave the West open to the corrosive forces of jihadism. Faith is the appropriate weapon to bring to the fight with jihadism. The book is light and fast with bouts of humor. While it may not be classed as a “novel of ideas” there is a considerable appeal to it. I’ve said that it was not a novel of ideas, that’s not entirely true. Some reviews on Amazon compared it to Battlestar Galactica, and that’s only true on a superficial level. The similarity is that both question the nature of the human person. We are inclined to render the belief that we are created in the image and likeness of God into a belief that God looks rather like us. What it really means is that whatever the physicality of our appearance we are like God in having reason and intellect and other qualities. Now it’s arguable that the Turing test is applicable here. If a computer can emulate a human’s intelligence, then the computer is intelligent in the same way as a human is. If the Posleen can respond to the call of God in the same way as a human, then the Posleen has a soul, and salvation is open to him. As I said, it’s fast and it’s light. It’s an enjoyable way to pass several hours.