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Celestis [Paperback]

Paul Park
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15 1997
Paul Park's Nebula-nominated novel is an extraordinary, challenging work about a human colony on an alien world. "A Martian Chronicles for the nineties possessed of a haunting power."--Locus.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Paul Park's world of Celestis is not as dark and brooding as that of Paradise in his Sugar Rain books, but the story is even more disturbing. Humans have subjugated the planet's native aboriginals in those ways that humans often do. On the surface, all is calm and civilized: aboriginals appear happy with the lifestyle change, the cultural opportunities now available, and a victory over another native race that had enslaved them for centuries. But the calm is only a veneer that hides the decay and anger beneath, a short-term peace.

Park details the worms of decay through his description of Katherine, the daughter of a wealthy, Westernized native merchant. Katherine is a devout Catholic and takes drugs and undergoes periodic plastic surgery to make her more human; with her transplanted knucklebones, she can even play Beethoven on her concert piano. Katherine and Simon, a young diplomat assigned to Celestis, are thrown together when they're kidnapped during an uprising. Simon falls in love with her, but Katherine, cut off from the medication she needs to keep her humanlike, begins to revert to her natural--though to her quite unnatural--alien state.

A tangled predicament of violence, transformation, and loss, Celestis delivers an eerie view of history, psychology, and the perception of others.

From Publishers Weekly

Entering a Paul Park universe means slipping onto an eerily compelling plane where nearly palpable visions transform as disturbingly as the images in a sexually charged fever dream. While the world imagined here, with its imperial/colonial paradigm, seems planted on firmer ground than the world of Parks's trilogy, The Starbridge Chronicles, the oddly disengaging revolution through which the author's new characters wander tends to skew the fine-edged balance he is apparently trying to maintain between futility and passion. Katharine Styreme is an alien whose man-made medications have enabled her to organize conscious thought, appreciate the beauty inherent in religion and music and generally appear more human. But when Katharine, along with the human consul Simon Mayaram, are kidnapped by terrorists, she is deprived of her medications. As she and Simon seek sanctuary from the growing violence, her conscious mind slowly reverts back to a more alien, and much richer, interior perspective. Park produces some beautiful writing here, as well as compelling insight into the nature of "the world outside our small blinkered range," but his repeated emphasis on how sexual bonding promotes a false sense of communication detracts from an otherwise impressive treatise on the nature of mind, matter and reality.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Celestis May 3 2001
Paul Park definatly made an impression on me about the way our country and our life form lives our lives. We all depend on wanting to be something we are not. Here we've got Simon and Katherine,a human working for the diplomats on Celestis and the other an alien that takes drugs and has surgery so she can be more human physically and mentally. Park definately shows detail in how Katherine develops sexual tendancy, almost too much detail. When these two are kidnapped all her forms of drugs are no longer available and that is where the book becomes very exciting.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grippingly difficult Feb. 24 2001
Casual readers won't find this a fun ride at all, this is a book that makes a grab for literary status and just about succeeds. I'm not familiar with Paul Park's other works but this definitely impressed me and showed that science fiction can be more than just people shooting at each other with laser guns, it can be a frank examination of what we are and where we're going, just because the setting is another planet and the characters can't all be called "human", means nothing. Here we've got Simon and Katherine, the former a human working for the diplomats on Celestis and the other an alien that has taken drugs and had surgery so that she can be more "human" in both look and thoughts. But when they get kidnapped by rebels, Katherine is cut off from her medicine and starts to go back to what she was originally . . . her slow descent (or ascent, depending on your will) into her basic "alieness" is well handled and Park strings us along like a master? Does the book move slowly? Yeah, it does and the dream sequences at first glance appear to only be there as a literary exercise, something to fill space with. But when examined you can see that they're key pieces to the stories, like all dreams they have a bit of truth and a bit of nonsense to them but like the best dreams they reverberate. This isn't a happy book by any stretch of the imagination, the planet is shackled, the people don't want to be there, hope isn't in high quantities. But yet everyone survives and through Park's mastery of detail we get to see it all, he makes his aliens seem like aliens and his people, while they're people you might know, sometimes they don't seem too far from aliens themselves. Like I said, not an easy book but one of the more important SF works of the nineties and not one you can easily ignore.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dull and monotonous Oct. 30 2000
I was not impressed. The plot was virtually non-existant and could have been told in much less space. The dream sequences from Katharine for the most appeared to be irrelevant or, at best, unclear as to how they fit in with the story. The relationship between the humans, aboriginals, and demons was difficult to follow. And the overt sexual content was a bit much.
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