Thursday, December 23, 2010

Book Review: "Flight of Shadows" -- Superior sequel

Author: Sigmund Brouwer, 2010. (Waterbrook Press)

When I first received "Flight of Shadows" and sat down to read it, I discovered that it is a sequel to "Broken Angel." So I had to read the prequel first. And I was glad I did, as it furnished details about Caitlyn Brown, Billy and Theo, the three main characters in this book. However, "Broken Angel" was linear and predictable, an average read at best. It did not excite me about "Flight of Shadows." Yet, surprisingly, the sequel is superior, being a suspenseful thriller maneuvering through shadowy worlds that circles to an elusive ending that satisfactorily completes the story. At the same time it raises compelling moral questions about science and society.

In "Broken Angel" Caitlyn Brown discovers she is a freak, a genetic experiment in hiding inside Appalachia. A theocracy, this country has succeeded from the United States. Outside her boundaries, America is really no more, a series of walled-in city states. Given a secret letter by her father Jordan Brown, she manages to escape with the help of her two new friends Billy and Theo, leaving merciless bounty hunter Mason for dead and National Intelligence Agent Pierce unsuccessful in his attempt to capture her.

"Flight of Shadows" picks up with Caitlyn now outside. But this is a new world where society is stratified into Influentials, Industrials, Invisibles and Illegals. Power is horded at the top, and those beneath have no rights, simply struggling for survival. Once again, Caitlyn finds herself on the run, chased by Pierce and the government for what her altered DNA can provide. Little does she know that Mason is also after her, fueled not only by his twisted sadistic nature but by the need for revenge for what she took from him in Appalachia.

Brouwer introduces a new character, Razor, a street smart illusionist who is more than he appears and who switches identities as easily as he switches sides. Even to the end, it is not clear if Caitlyn will elude her pursuers or who is friend and who is foe. Indeed, what do they want from her and what power lies dormant in her blood? Will her past finally catch up and overtake her present, swiftly curtailing a fragile future?

As much as this is a science fiction story set in the not-too-distant future, populated with soovie parks and death doctors, Brouwer's tale is one of a father's love for his daughter. And it is propelled by the choice she must make. Will she be driven by inner anger at what he and life have forced on her, trusting no one? Or will she decide to love and accept the help of others? Risking all, she must face sacrifice if she wants to experience freedom.

As Christian fiction Brouwer thankfully refrains from preaching, relying on the story itself to illuminate the horrors of DNA manipulation and social oppression. He even provides a fleeting glimpse of mercy in the dark heart of evil.

Brouwer's end-note describes his desire to paint the picture of a society that is not too far-fetched. Drawing from the history of ancient city-states as well as current repression of rights in Africa and the Middle East, he offers this as a warning lest our present democracy disintegrates. The dangers lie in the abuse of cheap illegal immigrant workers, the decline of civil liberties, and the exploitation of science for the pleasures of the privileged few. A rockingly good read, "Flight of Shadows" leaves us satisfied but duly warned.

Note: I received a free copy from Waterbrook but was not influenced to provide a positive review.

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