Daniel Krummenacher,
(Living Stone, 2004)

Daniel Krummenacher's Tierrazul opens with an elegant bit of parable disguised as science fiction. Two hunters, distracted and divided in their motivations, set off across the unwelcoming frozen landscape of Tierrazul in search of a more focused, alert prey. The landscape defeats the hunters, while it lifts the erstwhile target to safety. The point is made, the story is told and the whole thing balances morality and sci-fi info dumping without sacrificing drama.

But as the hunters illustrate, such unity of purpose is hard to keep, and Tierrazul soon loses its fine sense of balance. The elements introduced in the opening vignette -- the philosophical issues, the warring cultures, the background environment and culture of Tierrazul -- stop working to highlight each other and begin battling for space, each thing trying to become its own story. It doesn't help that of all the elements in the story of Tierrazul, the actual story is the simplest and least developed. The world of Tierrazul is deep and well textured, complete with pasts both real and mythic. But it's clear that Krummenacher's heart lies with the philosophical debates in Tierrazul. They are long, passionate and extremely complicated, littered with often unnecessary invented words and over explained principles. The speeches and debates are more aggravating because they so often talk right over the story that might otherwise serve to illuminate their issues with more elegance. As it is, it's impossible to hear the theories of Tierrazul for all their shouting.

Tierrazul is an ambitious effort. The fantasy parable is grand tradition, and has been used to great effect by many an evangelical philosopher. But extended moral tales work best when their morality is simple, direct and at least at little familiar to audiences in this world. And stories of any sort work best when they can proceed without having to unpack encyclopedias every 10 feet. Tierrazul is a grand exploration held down by too much baggage.

by Sarah Meador
25 November 2006

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