REVIEW: Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson

Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart by Steven Erikson

Length: 407 pages

Release date: 16 October 2018

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Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart tells the story of the Intervention, which begins when Samantha August, science fiction writer, disappears into a beam of light, apparently from a UFO, while walking along a busy street in Victoria, Canada. While footage of the incident – captured on smartphones – goes viral, Samantha wakes up in a small room, where she is greeted by the voice of Adam, who explains that they are in orbit and he is AI communicant of the Intervention Delegation, a triumvirate of alien civilisations seeking to ensure the continuing evolution of Earth as a viable biome. Thus begins an astonishing, provocative, beautifully written and startlingly visionary novel of First Contact.

 

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“Every fiction author knows that wish fulfilment is a dangerous thing. Being the hero of your own story sounds great, but in an honest tale, hell is just around the corner.”

 

Rejoice is Steven Erikson’s wish fulfilment. It’s no coincidence that the protagonist is a provocative, intellectual science-fiction author handpicked from a field of seven billion people to save the world. To his credit, Erikson does a fine job of capturing the hell around the corner. And what hell is that? The hell, of course, where violence is impossible. Everything from war to fossil fuels, gone–the only physical aggression that can be committed in the unfathomable new world is self-inflicted.

This is thoughtful utopian fiction that works. It’s slow-paced and can be very dense at times, more of an extended philosophical discussion than the thriller you might expect from first contact. The actual aliens never actually appear, and rightly so: Rejoice isn’t about the aliens. It’s about us.

I loved following the massive range of characters as they found various ways of dealing with the new perfect reality. Quite a few of them are fictionalised versions of figures we all know and wonder what goes on behind the public personas. You’ll easily spot Elon Musk, Putin, Xi Jinping and the like. It doesn’t really matter that much whether Erikson gets them ‘right’. Rejoice is first and foremost about exploring the possibilities, imagining the human resistance and forced adaptation, in a planet robbed of arguably our greatest common denominator.

*Thanks to Orion Publishing Group and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book! All opinions represented remain my own.*

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