cover image The Broken Land

The Broken Land

Ian McDonald. Spectra Books, $22.5 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-08983-7

Mathembe Fileli and her family enjoy a nearly perfect existence in their native village of Chepsenyt, where her father raises trux, live organisms resembling trucks and used in heavy construction work, and her mother spins clothing, food and tools from basic DNA. Even Confessors and Proclaimersp. 8 , members of the town's two opposing religions, manage to live side by side; but when the town hides two Warriors of Destiny--guerilla fighters who oppose the Emperor Across the River--it is destroyed in a firestorm organized by the Emperor's soldiers. Mathembe, her family and the rest of the villagers are forced to flee. When her father is taken as a political prisoner, Mathembe realizes that she cannot turn for protection to her parents--or to her grandfather's decapitated-but-still-living head. From her shaky beginnings as a street vendor, she learns to rely upon herself in order to survive, and embarks on a painful journey to adulthood. Mathembe's world is a captivating one with its rampant biotechnology and passionate characters. But McDonald ( King of Morning, Queen of Day ), a lifelong resident of Belfast, also succeeds in presenting the religious and national conflict of an Ireland that still knows no respite from bloodshed. (Sept.)