D. Kim Burnham, |
The Bureau of Resurrection
This is a different book. It contains a very nice love story, a strange view of the political future of the United States, time travel, invisibility, seemingly ad-lib comedy references to many popular culture icons, the cultural and societal implications of finding the secret to extreme longevity and a cross-section view of the eternal battle between Good and Evil. There are also religious concepts, political jabs in every direction, genetically engineered deer and attempts to humanely treat mental illnesses. It is like a department store of genres, except all the products in the store are filed almost randomly.
Ian is a psychiatrist who uses externally-induced dreams to rid his patients of sin and thereby cure their psychopathology. But where does the sin then go? I hope it is not going into the upstairs apartment inhabited by Bill Z. Bubb. Oh no! It is! But his Infernal Darkness is not out to corrupt humanity through direct temptation, but through a slicker, more subtle means. Luckily, Ian has a girlfriend named Faith who has an excellent understanding of the real values important in life. That's right, Ian can find the way to defeat the Devil, through Faith.
Meanwhile, let's step back and see what has happed to the U.S. The big coastal cities have separated from the interior states to form a liberal nation called NPR, whereas most of the interior states coalesced into a more right-wing nation called RICH. Except for Utah, which became ROZ (the Republic of Zeissel, named after its founder, Zelda Zeissel and her husband, Snuffy). Oh, and science has discovered a single molecule that can imbue its recipient with almost eternal life, although those recipients do age and need periodic Restitution and Resurrection.
When Bubb realizes Ian and Faith oppose him in his climb to social dominance, he calls on his ever-growing political influence to kill Faith and frame Ian, and Ian has to go on the lamb, I mean lam. But, can the Devil really destroy Faith?
Ian and two allies (former patients, one of whom remains quite delusional) flee in their ... I do not think I can go on. This is just too silly.
If the story were consistently wacky and goofy and silly, that would be fine. But at least half the time, D. Kim Burnham writes good science fiction/fantasy with interesting characters and important themes. The Bureau of Resurrection journeys into the territory earlier explored by Robert Heinlein with his Lazarus Long stories, and even more seriously explored by Kim Stanley Robinson in his Mars trilogy: What are the political, cultural and social implications of near-immortality. But, just as The Bureau of Resurrection starts to delve into the interesting topic, it goes off on silly tangents, including genetically enhanced gorillas running a city under a banana-shaped dome.
As the Good vs. Evil theme heats up, Ian and his friends (and the author) take a wrong turn into a zone loaded with radioactive contamination, inhabited by robots called mech-kins. That's right, it is Mech-Kin Land. They seek the Lizard of ROZ.
In general, Burnham writes well on the technical level. This book does need a healthy dose of editorial attention, though, as there are more misspellings than are seen in most books, quotation marks are occasionally absent, and quotation marks are often found in locations that definitely qualify them as trespassers. When the author writes in a serious tone, the story is good. When the author writes in a comic tone, the story is also good, and is somewhat reminiscent of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The problem is that the two modes are hopelessly intermixed (not blended), thus disrupting the pace and flow. Every time I started to really enjoy the story, I would encounter a detour into Wacky-land.
This could have been a good serious fantasy or science fiction novel, and it could have been a funny farce. Instead, it tries to be both, and fails on both fronts. But it does have cool cover-art.
8 March 2008
Send us your opinions!