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Old 04-12-2010, 10:03 AM   #1
leebase
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Beyond The Tomorrow Mountains - a review

"Beyond the Tomorrow Mountains" by Sylvia Engdahl is the sequel to one of my high school favorite reads "This Star Shall Abide". In the first book we are introduced to Noren who values truth above all things. He's born in a village on a world with a strict caste system. Education is limited for those born in his caste. At the top of the heap are the "Scholars" who "know everything" and then there are the Technicians who can use machines....which are holy.

Noren is a heretic for believing that there's nothing special about Technicians and Scholars that he couldn't be himself, if only he had access to the knowledge. The first book is all about Noren's journey as a heretic who values the truth -- who comes to learn that the Prophecy is essentially true and that the Scholars have a very good reason for the way things are -- culminating in Noren becoming a Scholar himself.

The problem is that mankind's sun went nova destroying the six worlds of humanity. The world they are living on has no metals, no trees -- nothing that can be used to maintain society. Even the soil and water are poisonous. All they have is the technology they brought with them and it has to last for generations until they can figure out how to create metal from nuclear fusion. In order to preserve the technology, and yet grow the population -- they created a caste system. It's a horrible thing, and all the Scholars feel it's horrible, but the alternative is the extinction of the human race.

It's a book that filled my mind as a high schooler with the thoughts of truth and whether or not it's better to know and face pain or be happy and ignorant.

This second book could have been subtitled "Atheists need faith too". It lacks all the charm of the first book. Noren, now a scientist, is faced with the fact that creating metal is impossible by all known theories. Not just "we don't know how", but "we know it can't be done". He is paralyzed by this realization and is stripped of all the faith that he had (not faith in God, but faith that the Scholars would succeed). Sylvia is does a wonderful job of putting you into Noren's mind of despair. So good a job, that the reader is filled despair. And it goes on and on and on. If you like despair, you'll like this book. There is a payoff for those who don't slit their throats by the end of the book. Noren does find faith. Not faith in any type of god or religion, but just faith enough that it's better to try to live and die than just to give up and die.

I will be pressing on to read the third and final book just because Sylvia learned after writing the first two that she overlooked a possible solution to the no-metal delimma. Let's hope that the theme of the third book isn't "everyone should endure a time of great despair" The first book I'd recommend. It would (and did) stand alone fine as a single book. This second one -- I'm not sure who I'd recommend the book to. Atheists looking for a reason to live, perhaps.

Lee
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