Friday, May 17, 2013

Damocles - A Study in Humanity









You know how you start reading a book,  at first you’re real slow, well-mannered and paced, and you remember to stop reading in time to make lunch or dinner, or go to bed? And then you get drawn in, and forget everything else, even making dinner for the family? 
Well, that.
I missed my favorite TV show (CSI:Vegas) to finish Damocles, and when I did, my first thought was, “Oh no! Is she planning a sequel? I want a sequel! We never found out what that meant, with the kraken, and those Sea Gods! I want to know!”

Sheila Redling has written a compelling, gripping novel. In a way, it reminds me of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, which I also loved very much, but Sheila’s book is more human. 

Damocles is the name of the spaceship that takes a small group of people to explore a far-off planet after receiving a message from The Set, who claim to have seeded Earth with life. The human explorers find an alien culture, and make first contact.

The thing I really like about this novel is the emphasis on language. There are no weapons, no intrigue, no violence. There are only two cultures trying to communicate, and get concepts, values, and ideas across to one another.
How do you explain night to someone who has never seen darkness?
How do you make someone from a world that never sleeps, understand that humans need sleep?
And how do you express that you trust someone when you don’t speak the same language?

Just like Russell’s The Sparrow, Damocles is about finding similarities and accepting differences, about making friends despite those differences, and finding that at the core, the same things count, regardless of culture: trust, love, friendship, honesty.

I love this book: I love its language, and its theme. And I really hope there will be a sequel.