Divine Endurance and Flowerdust, - two novels collected together for the first time exclusively as an e-book and known as "The Last Days Of Ranaganar" - are set within a far-future south-east Asia, a future that is hardly recognizable from the present and one that seems both medieval and futuristic in equal measure. The veiled women rule the Peninsula and guard the sacred hearth; Dapur.
To the south lies Ranganar, an island city that houses the Samsui reformers; builders of factories and machines and pursuers of the heretical "Three Springs" dream the ideals of liberty, equality and hard work. The rulers of the Peninsula are champions of preservation and have forbidden any violence or rebellion against those foreigners across the sea - even if those same foreign rulers seem hell bent on ruling over a country of corpses.
Deveet is heir to the Peninsula's paramount sovereign family - the Garuda, outcast and raising a new kind of rebellion, calling forth secret powers unknown to the foreigners; finally the veiled ladies signal their support. This change of heart is largely due to the character Cho, the Innocent, perfect and incorruptible doll-who-is-a-person; a perfect machine from a legendary past. Cho, looking for someone to serve, has given herself, body, heart and soul, to the last of the Garudas but should they be paying more attention to her cat, the heartless feline known as Divine Endurance?
After all Divine Endurance has never forgiven the humans, those toymakers of long ago, who created her and then abandoned her. . .
Divine Endurance was originally published almost thirty years ago with Flowerdust written ten years later and set within the timeframe of the original story - two thirds way through the book when the characters Derveet and Prince Atoon have arrived at the southern city of Ranganar and are looking to figure out what their next move should be.
The author has a real talent for building a living, breathing world without spending too long on world-building narrative. Both the Peninsula and later the city of Ranganar feel like they could quite easily exist outside of story and have a wonderful vibrancy about them.
With a powerfully strange, alien feeling the world of Divine Endurance holds a great deal of potency; along with some very thoughtful themes that create a great sense of depth. It's the characters that really shine though, Cho and Divine Endurance themselves standing out as two incredibly well written creations and the interplay between these two really make the novel the classic that it is.
There is a wonderful sense of a classic to the prose, reminiscent of the tales from the Golden age of science fiction, there are hints of past masters styles - although the author can stand along side them with a unique and at times compelling voice. The two novels work well together although each does have a slightly different style; the former needing closer attention to do the story justice while the latter having a faster, easier to read structure.
Divine Endurance and Flowerdust reverberate with the sense of the wonders of science fiction, both are a hugely rewarding read that awakens the readers sense of wonderment; deserving a place along-side the sf masterworks.
Written on Wednesday 6th March 2013 by Antony.
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