I read a Sheri S. Tepper for last year’s CBR and liked but didn’t love it, and thought I’d give her another shot. I thought this one was going to change my mind. It started out with such promise! A rich, interesting, original post-apocalyptic world. Great villains. Okay heroes. Lots of interesting stuff. I was hooked! Until the end.
When astronomers and scientists notice a thing out in space, heading rapidly toward Earth, they start getting nervous. When the thing avoids other planets to stay on its collision course, they get legit freaked. Scientist Nell Latimer starts building a bunker and keeping a journal. When the government starts building huge underground bunkers filled with research, seeds, and cryogenically frozen scientists, Nell is chosen to go, and makes the hard decision to leave her two children and her whacko religious husband on their own in their own small bunker, Blast from the Past style.
Disme is basically Cinderella, living hundreds of years after the Happening that nearly destroyed the world. Her stepsister hates her, her father and brother are dead, her stepmother (who also hated her) is dead, and she basically stays because she’s a dishrag. However, weird stone obelisks start showing up around the countryside, zapping regular folks and basically possessing them with prophets and characters from early-apocalypse myths. (It reminded me of the Winchesters being vessels for more powerful beings on Supernatural.) So dishrag through she is, Disme is now Chosen and Important, and she and some of the other vessels go off on a quest.
The flashbacks and present-day stories come together in an interesting way, since the bunker full of scientists have been taking turns being unfrozen every few centuries to check in on the world.
SPOILERS FOR THE STUPID ENDING
But once all the chosen ones complete their quest, they meet an all-powerful alien, who basically says the apocalypse was a test, and he’s their training god, trying to get humanity ready for the one true god called – get this – the Real One. So he’s there to challenge all of humanity’s false gods, spread the word through his possessed prophets, and then zoom off back to space once they’re worthy. It is hand-wavy and condescending and just damn silly. All of that great set-up! Trying to figure out what’s actual magic and what’s just people rediscovering technology! Cool new creatures that sprang up after the end of the world! And then…it’s all a Sunday School lesson? Seriously?
Like the last Tepper I read, promising setup, disappointing follow-through.