cover image Soldiers of Paradise

Soldiers of Paradise

Paul Park. Arbor House Publishing, $17.95 (280pp) ISBN 978-0-87795-861-1

The holy citystate of Charn carries on an endless fight against heretics, executing many outright while still others clog its vast prisons and fall before its genocidal military campaigns. But in this amalgam of Calcutta and Victorian London, dissatisfaction is inevitable, as the harsh caste system is reinforced by the theocracy. Clergymen tattoo babies at birth, assigning them their place in life and penance for sins of their past lives. Even the ruling class is imprisoned in its role, as Prince Abu Starbridge finds when he goes among the poor, and as his cousin, Doctor Thanakar Starbridge, learns when he tries to minister to prisoners and soldiers. Readers who get past the opening, a sentimental, portentous and extended Vietnam metaphor, will find that first novelist Park has a dark and powerful, if very romantic vision, recalling at times Brian Aldiss's Helliconia trilogy. (September 25)