The Alexander Jablokov series continues.
Raw Feed (1991): “The Breath of Suspension”, Alexander Jablokov, 1991.
This is a prequel to Jablokov’s novel Carve the Sky.
It’s primarily a quirky, unrequited love story and a story of how a saint drags people in tow to realize her holy vision.
Jablokov’s prose is, as always, a pleasure to read.
His ambitious protagonist, Vikram Osten, provides a mournful, melancholy retrospective on his life as he relates his relationship with St. Aya Ngomo and compares himself to Brother Thomas.
St. Aya Ngomo is seen craftily manipulating the politics of the Russian Orthodox Empire that rules much of twenty-second century Earth and space to propel Osten on his way up the ladder of power — and, not incidentally (it’s her main purpose), give him enough clout to help her realize her ambition of traveling into space. Ngomo says, before she illegally heads off into space aboard the first ngomite-controlled fusion spaceship, that Osten could not return her love for him so she used him in her quest to find the Ancient Ones. There is more about the Ancient Ones in Carve the Sky but here, as with the science of this tale, they are little more than sf icons in a tale of love, devotion, holiness, and religion.
Ngomo is willing, by destroying Osten’s court career, to forsake her object of love for the holy cause of finding the Ancient Ones.
I also thought the whole idea of her searching for a jewel — the substance Ngomite which she discovers in the asteroid belt — because her father told her a tale about how each person has a jewel that defines them — to be an improbably convenient childhood memory and metaphor obsessively taken too seriously. However, it fits in well with the notion of religious quest being a quest for self-fulfillment and definition.
Brother Thomas abandoning his lover Janielle for the monastery was another example of pain caused by religious devotion.
Janielle, and the Osten who follows Ngomo’s spaceship in his telescope, are examples of abandoned loves of a saint and possible saint.
In short, Jablokov has all the mechanisms and features of a “literary” type sf story here with the emphasis on the human aspect of the story with sf features as furniture to decorate the setting and push the plot along, two plots which mirror and contrast with the thematic statements. However, I don’t think he really pulls off the crucial plot element of Ngomo’s love of Osten or why he is devoted to watching the flare of her ship other than Ngomo being representative of the goal his life was largely, unintentionally, directed towards and sacrificed for.
A good story but flawed in the relationship of Ngomo and Osten, a key element.