On My Bookshelf: The Causal Angel

causal_angelThe final book of Hannu Rajaniemi’s science fiction trilogy was top of my bedside bookshelf for the past few weeks. Last Fall I read the first two books, which I reviewed here and here.

The main character develops through this series, as the nouns of each title give you a hint: thief to prince to angel. Jean le Flambeur, sprung from prison in book one, sets big things in motion in book two, and finds himself making virtuous choices in the conclusion.

I found myself reading in a familiar tone through this tome. The first half of the book moves slowly as the two main characters, Jean, and his once-rescuer Mieli making their way through a backdrop of solar system-wide war that is destroying planets left and right. Are new friends to be trusted? Are lost friends to be found? Like the other books in this trilogy, things heat up about halfway through. And there’s a satisfying conclusion.

Science fiction publishers like to milk multiple volumes out of its authors. These three books by Mr Rajaniemi are really one story. The disadvantage of reading a series while it gets published is trying to recall important details from the previous books. I had forgotten that I had read two books here–not just one.

On the plus side, these are all intelligent novels. They make demands of a reader. And as good science fiction, they provoke wonder and thought. Good fiction delves into character and the development of people, not just a wonder-invoking setting in the clouds of Saturn.

In one way, this is pretty old-school science fiction in that planets and the people on them feature significantly. Mieli was born and raised on a comet in the deep outer solar system. That strikes me as a more likely future than people settling planets. In The Causal Angel human beings harness great amounts of energy to settle the upper atmosphere of Saturn. And why? In the near future, there won’t be a lot of energy available to drop people onto planets and lift them off again. If there isn’t breathable air, water, trees, and animals on a planet’s surface, why bother gong there. And bringing them with us. Rather than turn Mars into a new Earth, it would be easier and more economical to take a smaller body, like an asteroid, and live in the hollows there. It’s easier to fill up caverns and tunnels than an entire planet.

That consideration doesn’t really spoil the book. I recommend this series. If you haven’t read any of these books, start at the beginning. And be prepared to not get the full story until you get to about page 150 in the third book.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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