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.
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.
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. Read morePublished on May 3 2001 by John Wayne
I was not impressed. The plot was virtually non-existant and could have been told in much less space. Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2000 by Jeffrey L. Nauss