Sunday, December 6, 2020

Book Review: A Rumor of Angels

Book Review: 'A Rumor of Angels' by M. Bradley Kellogg 

2 / 5 Stars

'A Rumor of Angels' (277 pp.) was published by Signet in June, 1983. The cover art is by Keith Eugene Johnson. This was the first published novel for Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, who went on to write a number of sci-fi and fantasy novels during the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

The novel is set in 2027, 30 years after Earth has opened an interdimensional portal to a sister planet, called Arkoi. Arkoi is everything Earth is not: underpopulated, pastoral, unpolluted, and inhabited by a race of pacifistic humanoids known as the Koi.

The Terrans have exploited the passivity of the Koi to begin colonization, through the establishment of the noisome city of Menissa. However, expansion into or over the enormous mountain range that borders Menissa has been halted by a mysterious phenomenon: aircraft fail to operate, and those Terrans who try to penetrate the mountains on foot either vanish, or return in a fugue state so severe they must be institutionalized.

Political activist Jude Rowe is serving a lengthy sentence in a Terran maximum security prison for trespassing in a government office, when she is offered a deal: in exchange for her freedom, she is to travel to Arkoi and join an expedition to traverse the mountain range and discover who - or what - lies within the interior of the planet. The assignment is perilous: there is a good chance that she will vanish, never to be seen again...........her bones left lying on a un-named mountainside. 

Making the best of a bad situation, Jude takes the deal, and finds herself reliant on a self-serving Terran intelligence agent, and an embittered alien named Ra'an, for her survival. Will Jude succeed where others have failed ? And if she does succeed, will what she learns about the Koi force her to take sides in a conflict to determine the fate of Arkoi ? 

Although 'A Rumor of Angels' takes its time getting underway, the initial chapters are reasonably engaging. However, after the Big Revelation is disclosed - ninety pages into the book - the narrative starts to lose focus, morphing into a human - alien romance story belabored with seemingly interminable passages of psychodrama. 

The world of the Koi is presented in so idyllic a manner as to veer into the saccharine (for example, when we first are introduced to the Koi character 'Elgri', he strides out of the warm, fragrant woodland accompanied by a retinue of chirping and gamboling forest creatures, like Bambi from the 1942 Walt Disney movie). 

I finished 'Rumor' thinking that its major sub-plot, in which a team of human colonists and Koi rebels organize a clandestine resistance against the rapacious Terran authority, was the more rewarding part of the novel. This sub-plot lends some much-needed momentum and suspense to the closing chapters, but unfortunately, in these same closing chapters it has to compete with the climax of a particularly overwrought melodrama.

Summing up, 'A Rumor of Angels' likely will only appeal to those who prefer a character-driven narrative that explores the necessary journey through various psychological crises that must be made to arrive at an affirmation of the self, and one's position in society. If your tastes run to more brutish and primitive sci-fi narratives, then it's best you stay away from 'Rumor'. 

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