With Rejoice: A Knife to the Heart, Erikson holds up a mirror for all of humanity.
The Earth, when seen from space, shows no borders.
A First Contact story that examines the path of the human race on Earth, Rejoice nails some very brutal truths about humankind at large; where humanity is heading to and what awaits us in the future without intervention. Once again, Erikson offers up a stunning philosophical discourse, albeit one that is less allusive and hitting much closer to home as compared to his epic fantasy masterpiece, Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Even though this is an Earth-based story, its scope is still expansive as the narrative sweeps through the Americas, Russia, China and Africa through the eyes and minds of numerous characters, who react to the alien intervention in myriad ways. If you are looking for a character-driven story, however, you will have to look elsewhere. While there is one main character that appeared the most, her development as the chosen spokesperson of the ET presence (as in the formal acronym of ‘extra-terrestrial’, and not Spielberg’s) is not the focal point of the story. What was fascinating was that Erikson chose a Canadian science fiction writer to be that character; highlighting the level of empathy, understanding and intelligence prevalent in a profession that is more often than not subject to derision among the literary circle.
“Yet another example of a brilliant Canadian Science Fiction writer virtually no one in this country knows about, outside of the aficionados of the genre. Never reviewed by the Globe, or the National Post. So, who is she, madam Prime Minister? Smart, opinionated, a feminist, a humanist. Frankly, I’m not surprised the ETs selected her.”
How very telling, isn’t it? That Erikson chose to emphasize how SFF writers with their imagination can understand and empathise more with the plight of our world. Humans threatening the sustainability of the planet and capitalism serving to widen the gap between social hierarchies; these are a couple of macro themes which many current SFF writers are allegorically incorporating into their fictional narratives.
“Good writers don’t blink. They don’t shy away from hard truths.”
If you want to know more of these hard truths, I do recommend picking up this book. I will not be able to write it better than Erikson did and as such, shall refrain from doing so in this review. Do note that this first contact story is not your typical thrilling science fiction adventure; it is highly philosophical (it is Erikson, after all) with uneven pacing and occasional dryness in the prose. Nonetheless, there is a spark of humour and wit in the writing as a few notable current real-life personalities are fictionalised in this book, and to great effect. As I share the same conviction as the author on these social, environmental and economic commentaries, I was captivated with this original First Contact story which resonated so deeply with me.
With the death of your imagination, you lose the sense of wonder. But you need wonder. You need it to stay sane, and you need it to keep your heart from turning to stone.
This is why we read, as stories provide us with a sense of wonder and discovery, teach us empathy and give us hope. And more importantly, this is why my favourite genre is science fiction and fantasy.
Review originally written on 7 October 2018.
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