Friday, January 23, 2015

Reader's Review: "Division" by Lee S. Hawke


Synopsis from Amazon: (slightly reformatted for this blog)

BEAUTY. GRIEF. MINDS. EVERYTHING IS DIVISIBLE

[...]
Featuring 7 original, fairytale-inspired science fiction short stories, this collection explores the division between mind, body, technology, and humanity in Hawke’s trademark haunting style.
Inside:
A chronically ill civilian discovers that his immune system may be the key to human survival; A schoolgirl tries to escape her demons through levels of virtual reality; A data analyst falls in love with a software coder during a forced government assignment; A young boy is confronted with a horrifying truth about his constructed world; A jaded medical technician rediscovers the meaning of beauty; A girl scrambles to escape a horrifying alien invasion in a futuristic dystopia, and A spaceship engineer struggles with the death of her only daughter. 

Metaphysical and visionary, this collection of fantastic fiction combines humor, wonder, horror and humanity to create an enduring anthology of fairy tales for adults.
>>>>>>>>>
My Review:
*Disclaimer: The fact that the author was kind enough to provide a free copy of the book in exchange for the review in no way affects the candor of the opinions contained herein! 
Okay, here it is:

I love science fiction.
One of my favorite sci-fi authors is Isaac Asimov, "The Father of Modern Science Fiction."

I adore fairytales.
I have been devouring every kind of retelling/adaptation I could get my hands on over the last year.

So when a budding author publishes a book of "sci-fi fairy tales," I eagerly request a free copy in exchange for the chance to review it. All the while, visions of the countless re-tellings I had been reading—with a futuristic twist—danced through my head.

I had been so caught up in a certain set of folk tales that had been adapted and retold so many times that I forgot that the true meaning of "fairy tale" was much broader than Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and the gang.

Forget re-telling the same old stories. Lee Hawke has reinvented the notion of fairy-tales.

In my desperate attempt to read all of Asimov's fiction, I came across one anthology called "The Complete Robot," which was basically a bunch of short stories, some related, some not. I read it, loved it—but did not find much else outside of the widespread "Foundation Novels." 

Hawke's "Division" rekindled that same thrall that Asimov left on my imagination. Seven short, simple tales, ravishing in their use of poetic and palpable word choices (a pet fixation of mine!), and ponderous in the implications they leave upon the mind of the reader. The sage literary pioneer (Asimov) looks out across the universe and murmurs softly, "Atta girl."

In fact, the one negligible detail that keeps me from a full-throated recommendation (but not a full five stars!) is the presence of transgender characters in one story and a homosexual couple in another. From a moral and religious standpoint I believe these lifestyles to be fundamentally antithetical to the way humanity was designed...

But, as I said, it in no way affects my rating. Hawke is so gracious and tactful in her portrayals and use of those alternative lifestyles that it is both natural and nondescript (so much so that I almost missed the transgender when it happened and had to read it twice more to realize the significance). She writes them so well that, while I disagree with and do not support that lifestyle, I was not offended in the least. I read those two stories with the same eyes that explored (for a college course) the richness of an African author describing life in her village and the voodoo practices she embraced. To "agree to disagree" for the sake of enjoying such decadent storytelling was easy and I entered willingly. And like I mentioned, it was only two stories out of the seven... And neither had the lifestyle itself as the main focus and central issue. It was just a character decision, and the story happened beyond it.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed "Division." The thought-provoking tales captivated me from the very first page... And if the final and titular story "Division" doesn't leave you wiping a tear from your eye or at the very least (as I was) breathless... Then you're probably a robot.

"Division" receives FIVE STARS from me, and my warmest congratulations to Lee S. Hawke. Keep writing!