Faraway and Forever

By Nancy Joie Wilkie

Faraway and Forever, a novel by Nancy Joie Wilkie
Book details

Science Fiction has been inspired by religion ever since it started being written, Frankenstein: A Modern Prometheus even has the Greek Gods in the title. The word science may be in the title of the genre, but it is also a genre about wonder, about questioning the things around us. Science fiction and religion ask the same type of questions, so a series of short stories that blend religion and sci fi feels natural, but will the balance be right? Faraway and Forever by Nancy Joie Wilke is a second collection of short stories by the author that hopes to weigh the scales perfectly. 

The Bible poses many of the big questions that humankind has been pondering ever since they sat in the caves. What if there were other beings in the sky, where do our wishes and prayers go to, is there a life after death? In a series of five stories Wilkie explores these ideas and more. 

As someone who is more into science than religion, I came to Faraway from the perspective of a fan of the science fiction genre, and not for the religious questions it may have posed. Having read the book, it can work on both levels, for me it felt like any classic collection of sci fi short stories from the 50s through to the 70s. There is a slower pace and a deliberate focus on exploring the concepts, but there are also strong fantasy concepts set on far flung worlds or multidimensions. Is the book much different from the feel of a Bradbury? No, but is a gentler ride. 

What you notice in Wilke’s writing is the author’s enjoyment of exploring the inner workings of her characters. Once Upon a Helix questions if answers come from within or without, but in the guise of two scientists, one who specialises in gene therapy, the other outer space. The conversation these two find themselves in is typical of the stories, delving deep in what is best for humanity when they discover a message sent from space. 

The stories in the main are not overtly religious, although they do end in a quote. Some of the characters are believers themselves. The Last Sunday of Summer goes as far as to make some parts of the Church the enemy. The closest to a religious discourse is found in The Wishbringer, but this is wrapped in an interdimensional wrapping that makes it feel like a Star Trek episode. There is nothing to stop any sci fi fan from enjoying the discourse, they have read similar before. 

The most effecting tales are those that are the most personal Half the Sky is a tale of an orphan and her warring parents. The Goldfire Project is about a man dying of cancer and one last opportunity to live. This tale is the most successful at blending classic religious conversation and genre fic. The man is able to discuss with an AI what he should do, live forever in the Cloud, or die in his mortal shell. The AI has a better understanding of the human condition than we do. 

Faraway is a gentle series of science fiction stories that harks back to a different era. There is more time thinking and talking, than violence and action. You are also unlikely to get twist endings like many a short story. Any aspect of religion fits seamlessly into the tales as so many science fiction stories in the past have used religion as their base that it feels natural. If you like your sci fi to have laser guns and futuristic space battles, this book is not for you, but an ideas and concept driven reader will enjoy the stories.  

Written on 20th July 2023 by .

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