by Sylvia Engdahl
Ad Stellae, Eugene, Oregon, 2013. 452 pages.
I like Sylvia Engdahl’s writing. I’d ordered copies of all of her Flame books, then hadn’t gotten around to reading them because they aren’t library books and don’t have a due date. So I got this one read on vacation. I’d accidentally purchased two copies of this third book, so thought I’d bring it along and leave that copy behind after I finished it. This plan worked well — it is a book I’m happy to pass on to family.
And even though this is the third book, the cover explains that it takes place 200 years after the events in the earlier books, so you can read it without having read the earlier books. I do now have a good idea of what happens in the earlier books, but I’m hoping that won’t spoil them.
This is a book about humanity’s future. It’s consistent with Sylvia Engdahl’s view, hinted at in the wonderful Enchantress from the Stars, that mankind’s future evolution depends on learning to use the powers of our minds.
Defender of the Flame takes place when humans are on the cusp of discovering all their minds can do. Terry Radnor is a starship pilot, and he gets in on a secret project — defending a planet colony founded two hundred years earlier, where everyone is telepathic.
Terry also goes into training and learns to harness his full potential. He finds out why he was never satisfied in relationships before. Only with the telepathic connection can he truly link with others. On the planet, he finds an idyllic situation. He will dedicate his life to protecting what they have built here.
But things on Earth, in general, are not going well. There is overcrowding, slums, poverty. And the idea of psychic power is ferociously opposed by many, even some in power.
Though I didn’t foresee what would set Terry Radnor’s life drastically off the course he was trying for and the way he would be called upon to protect the colony.
If you let it, this book can read like propaganda for Sylvia Engdahl’s world view, or perhaps I should call it her view of humanity’s future. She’s got a prime directive of non-interference that everyone seems to believe in much more firmly than I ever would.
However, ultimately it’s a hopeful view — and makes a really good story. This is fun reading, about a starship captain facing many tough choices and several different seemingly impossible scenarios and coming through. If you choose to think more deeply about the view of humanity’s future, that’s icing on the cake. Enjoyable and thought-provoking reading.
Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/defender_of_the_flame.html
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