Celestis Paperback – Mar 15 1997
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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.
Top Customer Reviews
The aboriginal peoples of the planet were either exterminated or assimilated during the heady days of human expansion. Now, however, retrenchment is the watchword. The indigenous peoples are very different from human beings, and frequently adopt surgical and medicinal approaches to make them more like their conquerers. The plot revolves around the relationship between Simon, a low-level member of the foreign service, and Katherine, the modified (and attractive) daughter of a wealthy aboriginal merchant. Their capture by native freedom fighters who deny Katherine access to the medications that maintain her "humaness" ignites a twisting relationship between her and Simon. Park explores the question of "humaness" by following Katherine's slow loss of this quality.
Like most good SF, Celestis is really about us and now. Park uses the SF vehicle to ask fudamental questions about human nature. He uses Katherine's slow unraveling to probe this issue. One of the difficulties with this approach, however, is that the reader knows too little about the unaltered state of the aboriginals to determine whether some of the changes are simple reversions or true illness produced by drug-withdrawl. Further, some aspects of sexual relations in the novel are unnecessarily explicit. Graphic descriptions can be a very useful vehicle to make literary points. They must, however, be used carefully and judiciously. Park fails somewhat in this respect.
This was a darkly poetic, thought provoking novel. Park presents a gloomy picture and there isn't much here to cheer about. The relationship between human and alien is seen from numerous points of view. But it is the alien's point of view that is most disturbing and unfortunately most accurate. As the drugs wear off she begins to thinks of humans (and her "lover") as dogs.
This is an important work of science fiction. But if you are looking for fast paced sci-fi adventure this isn't for you. If the characters weren't all so pathetic I may have given this 5 stars. Recommended reading for the serious reader.
Most recent customer reviews
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