Reviewed by Eric Wilson
The Superlative Stream by Kerry Nietz
"Nietz combines the creativity and deep-thinking of these two pioneers [Lewis & L'Engle] and produces a series that stands proudly on its own."
Last year's "A Star Curiously Singing" was a masterpiece of imagination, characterization, and sci-fi mixed with deeper themes. I couldn't wait to get my hands on this sequel.
"The Superlative Stream" opens with a clever device to remind us of what has gone before and set the scene for the coming story. Once again, we find ourselves with SandFly and his companion HardCandy. They are debuggers, humans with prescribed jobs and scant shows of emotion--a romantic tension that is maintained with great skill. SandFly and HardCandy are heading to explore the strange information streaming from Betelgeuse, but this plan is disrupted by the appearance of an unknown planet. Soon, they find themselves hurtling toward the planet's surface, unsure if they will find friendly or hostile life. On this journey, Nietz weaves in strong backstory, particularly for HardCandy. He also uses some fun lingo--such as "freehead," "rails," and "burroughs and bradbury"--and peeks at possible technological advances.
Although well-known Christian author, C.S. Lewis, showed the potential of this genre with his acclaimed Space Trilogy, decades have passed with few others carrying that torch. Madeleine L'Engle explored mathematical and spiritual ideas in her Time Quartet, yet many Christians seem to think it anti-biblical to consider the possibilities of other planetary life. (The thinking is that the Bible would've told us if there were other lifeforms, which seems to me as egocentric and narrow-minded as those who believe America is the center of biblical prophecy.) Nietz combines the creativity and deep-thinking of these two pioneers and produces a series that stands proudly on its own. Lewis and L'Engle!
This is a futuristic world that feels believable, imaginative, yet somehow familiar. There are some biblical ideas threaded into the story, but never intrusively. While I would've liked more reasoning for three of the alien lifeforms having names from the book of Genesis (I kept waiting for some big reveal), I suspect that will be explained further in another book. I do sense more mysteries waiting to be explored.
Nietz, through his main characters, touches on the emotional disconnect that many people feel, and probes questions about our purpose as a species, as well as the futures of religion and faith. Thanks to writers willing to think outside the box, this genre is gaining new readers, Christian and otherwise. The search for truth is universal, and "The Superlative Stream" takes that search to the universe's edges, to the very places where the map ends.
Eric Wilson is the author of twelve novels that explore Earth's tension between heaven and hell, the latest of which is One Step Away, a twist on the story of Job. He lives in Nashville with his wife and two daughters. Visit him online at his website.