cover image Celestis


Paul Park. Tor Books, $21.95 (287pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85899-5

Entering a Paul Park universe means slipping onto an eerily compelling plane where nearly palpable visions transform as disturbingly as the images in a sexually charged fever dream. While the world imagined here, with its imperial/colonial paradigm, seems planted on firmer ground than the world of Parks's trilogy, The Starbridge Chronicles, the oddly disengaging revolution through which the author's new characters wander tends to skew the fine-edged balance he is apparently trying to maintain between futility and passion. Katharine Styreme is an alien whose man-made medications have enabled her to organize conscious thought, appreciate the beauty inherent in religion and music and generally appear more human. But when Katharine, along with the human consul Simon Mayaram, are kidnapped by terrorists, she is deprived of her medications. As she and Simon seek sanctuary from the growing violence, her conscious mind slowly reverts back to a more alien, and much richer, interior perspective. Park produces some beautiful writing here, as well as compelling insight into the nature of ``the world outside our small blinkered range,'' but his repeated emphasis on how sexual bonding promotes a false sense of communication detracts from an otherwise impressive treatise on the nature of mind, matter and reality. (June)