In an instant, Mathembe Fileli’s life was burned away . . . Now, in search of answers, she must traverse a divided nation
Life in the village of Chepsenyt is idyllic. Despite the empire’s growing religious tensions, the people of Chepsenyt live together peacefully and ply their trades, growing useful objects through the manipulation of DNA. It was here that Mathembe Fileli grew up, with her father creating tools used in construction and her mother spinning clothes and food.
That all changed in an instant.
The Broken Land mirrors Belfast resident Ian McDonald’s upbringing in Northern Ireland by depicting a nation cut in two by a violent religious divide. On one side are the Proclaimers, the ruling group that doesn’t believe in life after death, and on the other side are the Confessors, the opposing group whose thoughts are uploaded in the afterlife. When two Confessors take shelter in Chepsenyt, the Emperor’s soldiers burn the village to the ground, throwing the whole country into civil war. In this newly perilous world, Mathembe must draw on her resourcefulness and inner strength to find her family and bridge the nation’s gaping rift.
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.)
When the religious and political differences that divide the Confessors from the Proclaimers bring destruction to the village of Chepsenyt, a young Confessor woman begins a pilgrimage in search of healing for a land broken in spirit. Mathembe Fileli is a complex heroine, both victim and master of her destiny. Belfast resident McDonald ( King of Morning, Queen of Day , LJ 6/15/91; Desolation Road , LJ 2/15/88) transforms real-world politics into a rare and disturbing allegory that combines futuristic images with timeless conflict. This superb novel by one of today's most challenging visionaries deserves a place in every library.
This novel is set in an undefined future in a Third World outpost that variously resembles South Africa and Northern Ireland. A rural family is caught up in sectarian violence and forced to flee with more haste than dignity to a vast urban conglomeration, to which the conflict follows them. Genetic engineering holds out some hope for an ultimate solution to their predicament, although this hopeful note is marginal. The general tone of the book is relentlessly grim, sounded by a multitude of well-chosen details and in superior prose. McDonald's work continues to reflect his residence in war-torn Northern Ireland, but no one can seriously doubt that he is a superior writer with a potentially wider range. Highly recommended.
Ian McDonald was born in 1960 in Manchester, England, to an Irish mother and a Scottish father. He moved with his family to Northern Ireland in 1965. He used to live in a house built in the back garden of C. S. Lewis’s childhood home but has since moved to central Belfast, where he now lives, exploring interests like cats, contemplative religion, bonsai, bicycles, and comic-book collecting. He debuted in 1982 with the short story “The Island of the Dead” in the short-lived British magazine Extro. His first novel, Desolation Road, was published in 1988. Other works include King of Morning, Queen of Day (winner of the Philip K. Dick Award), River of Gods, The Dervish House (both of which won British Science Fiction Association Awards), the graphic novel Kling Klang Klatch, and many more. His most recent publications are Planesrunner and Be My Enemy, books one and two of the Everness series for younger readers (though older readers will find them a ball of fun, as well). Ian worked in television development for sixteen years, but is glad to be back to writing fulltime.