Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Her Name

In Her Name
by Michael R. Hicks

(Imperial Guard Publishing / 0-615-20853-3 / 978-0-615-20853-4 / April 2008 / 684 pages / $21.95 / $19.75 Amazon / $7.19 Kindle)

Reviewed by Dr. Al Past for PODBRAM

One of my good friends, a literate, book-reading friend, says he likes his movies tightly edited and concise, but he prefers his books by the pound. If that friend enjoys the occasional science fiction/fantasy adventure as well, then do I have a book for him! Michael R. Hicks' In Her Name is a monster of a paperback and an absolute steal for the price. (It's also available in Amazon's Kindle edition at a budget price.) I estimate In Her Name to be at least two pounds of solid entertainment.

For those who might be a little shaky on genre distinctions, science fiction involves devices like faster-than-light travel, exotic weaponry, alien species, and all the sorts of Star Wars features that most of us are familiar with. Fantasy adds the elements of spiritualism, magic, mysterious powers, and suchlike.

In Her Name features a galaxy-wide war of vast dimensions between humans and a race of reptilian warrior bipeds who are ferocious and merciless fighters. (Think of Whorf, the Klingon, or the samurai warriors of Japan.) One of these warriors notices a human child survivor during the aftermath of a battle that human forces lose. For whatever reason, the warrior remembers this child, and it is later kidnapped from an orphanage and enrolled in warrior training on the alien world (to see if it has a soul, actually). The child thrives after a difficult start, becoming completely acculturated to the alien society. Eventually, however, the child, Reza Gard, cannot stay with the alien race and must return to human society, where he likewise thrives... up to a point. After all, who would trust a person who has gone over to an enemy no one understands? The galactic war builds to a final conclusion, where Reza finds his fate is to be the culmination of the fate of his people – but which people?

I won't spoil the tale with further details, and in a book this size there are many. The basic outline is not a new one. Anyone at all familiar with Joseph Campbell's seminal study of mythology, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, will recognize the story of the person who sacrifices himself to save his people. (Indeed, even Christianity embodies this pattern.) In Her Name adds the notion of two peoples, however, one being non-human, and does it with meticulous and convincing veracity.

That was what I liked best about the book: the author's complete and convincing rendering of a non-human culture, to the point that the reader comes to understand and respect it, honor it, and even root for it! That is no mean feat of imagination, and it makes what could have been a purple-prose space opera into a delightful recreation.

Another feature that makes the book a great read is the style in which it is written: it is clear, elegant, and serves the story. When one is describing, let's say, the code of an alien warrior race or the feelings of attraction of a human for one of the Saurians, it would be easy for the prose to become an overwrought, Technicolor mishmash of hyperbole. But Mr. Hicks has a sure hand with this. Even when describing something totally fantastic, it is done so smoothly and gracefully that one accepts it at face value. The willing suspension of disbelief is alive and well in this novel.

A third positive feature that absolutely needs to be mentioned is the immaculate editing. The text reads as cleanly as any you will find, better, in fact, than most traditionally published efforts.

The bottom line is that In Her Name is highly recommended to those who love the sci-fi/fantasy genres, or are even tempted to try them. There is little profanity, but some gore, so perhaps the very young might hold off (though the movies they see are far, far worse). The most difficult thing a young reader is likely to find with this book would be holding it off the ground.

See Also: The B&N page
The author's website
Interview with Michael R. Hicks
Review of Michael R. Hicks' Publish Your Book on the Amazon Kindle

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