cover image The Cult of Loving Kindness

The Cult of Loving Kindness

Paul Park. William Morrow & Company, $20 (312pp) ISBN 978-0-688-10574-7

The third novel in Park's ( Sugar Rain ) ambitious Starbridge Chronicles is as tantalizing, ambiguous and fascinating as its predecessors. Set in a world (probably a far-future earth) where the seasons stretch for decades and historical phases of repression, rebellion and reaction repeat themselves with the long year, this volume takes place in the prosperous summertime. The spring revolution that tore down the old Starbridge regime and its harsh authoritarian religion has left a secular, populist government in its place. But remnants of the old ways remain, especially in the more primitive rural areas, and the forbidden Cult of Loving Kindness has begun to organize again. Sarnath Bey, disciple of a Zen-like master, rescues the twins Rael and Cassia as he returns to the master's village, where Sarnath raises them as his own. When he dies and progressive scientists from the city come to take over the village and improve its farming practices, Rael and Cassia flee to the forest. There they meet pilgrims of the Cult, and the twins learn the secret of their identities and the role they must play in bringing the Cult back to power. Park's prose is restrained and elegant, and the world he envisions is an evocative mixture of the familiar and the strange. With layers of speculation about history, religion, fate and destiny, this novel will remind the demanding reader how satisfying and challenging literary science fiction can be. (July)