This unwieldy debut from former Alabama state senator Drinkard introduces a low-tech world where human reproduction is controlled to concentrate desirable traits. Life is regulated by the scriptures of Geerna, a primitive human who long ago reached a covenant with the goddess Shetow. The wise women of the Medora Council interpret Geerna's words and protect her secret prophecies, overseeing the competitions where adolescents demonstrate their skills and suitability for mating. Occasionally indulging in too-chunky exposition, Drinkard unfolds a world more complicated than it first appears. Seven young men and women, chosen to represent humanity when Shetow passes judgment, soon learn their goddess is not at all what she seemed. Shifting romantic entanglements, team dynamics and personal growth keep the human level interesting despite revelations in which the characters are largely passive, but the eventual pairing off is too pat, and the conclusion ducks the moral questions raised by such social engineering. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Elomby William H. Drinkard
Fire from the Goddess and the meat and furs of the mammoth are all that the People need to live. It is a harsh life but a good one and it is one that all cherish.
Young Geerna knows that the time has come for her to become a woman and take up the tasks to keep her people safe. She waits in the Awakening Place, fearful and hopeful as her ordeals come/p>
Fire from the Goddess and the meat and furs of the mammoth are all that the People need to live. It is a harsh life but a good one and it is one that all cherish.
Young Geerna knows that the time has come for her to become a woman and take up the tasks to keep her people safe. She waits in the Awakening Place, fearful and hopeful as her ordeals come to an end. Then, on the eve of her Womanhood, a shining light descends upon her and her world is torn asunder.
And she embarks on a journey that none of her people could ever envision...
Eons have passed. Cycle upon cycle the Way of the People have remain unchanged: women are artists, men are hunters. Geerna’s Law is the covenant by which humans live in harmony and peace.
But all is about to change. A call has come for The People to choose their champions, and a summons to meet the mysterious creatures who selected Geerna so long ago.
All is unknown. As the brave souls who are chosen venture forth, they will come to discover just how much that pact that Geerna made so long ago has cost them.
And they will have to confront the choices that might help them to finally know true freedom.
Geerna, a young Ice Age woman, is transported by a bright light during her womanhood ceremony to a strange world called Elom. That is the result of the First Judgment. Eons later, as the people of Elom strive to follow Geerna's Law, news comes to them of a Second Judgment-and a group of six unique individuals are chosen as the champions of humanity. Their journey takes them to another world, one known to them from ancient legends. Former Alabama state senator Drinkard's first novel combines the prehistoric fantasy of Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear with tales of alien abduction to produce a unique dramatic exposition on the course of human civilization and its likely future. Though this is primarily a novel of ideas, the characters stand out as individuals rather than mouthpieces. A good choice for larger sf or alternate history collections.
“Dramatic...combines the prehistoric fantasy of Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear with tales of alien abduction.” Library Journal
“Shifting romantic entanglements, team dynamics, and personal growth keep the human level interesting…Drinkard unfolds a world more complicated than it first appears.” Publishers Weekly
“A debut first-contact novel that blends a dash of classic Star Trek with a healthy dose of psychoanalysis…compelling and possesses a certain naïve charm.” Kirkus Reviews
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By William H. Drinkard
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2008 William H. Drinkard
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At first, the appearance of the blood had startled Geerna; now she smiled to herself as she thought about it. It had been the number of days spanning the time between the risings of two full moons since the crimson liquid first trickled down the inside of her leg — a signal of the onset of her womanhood. The Earth Mother had Touched her a second time with the Flowing of the Blood a moon cycle later; now, as she huddled in the Quary Hut, she felt the uncomfortable wetness of her third Flowing of the Blood.
Her mother, Zera, had assured her the great Earth Mother, Shetow, would soon give her the blessed sign. Even with her mother's promise, it still frightened Geerna when she first felt the warm, sticky liquid and lifted her deer-pelt skirt to see the bright red symbol of the Earth Mother's Touch. To her surprise, her first thought was of pride in being Touched by Shetow before Kara, her closest friend. Geerna smiled and then yelled her good news to Kara before darting off to find Zera, who was digging up fresh kasa roots with the other women of the tribe.
Geerna's boyish looks were deceiving; her body, as yet, did not divulge the curves another cycle of the seasons would bring. Zera had assured her that as a young girl she too had been "as thin as a lake-grass reed," and told her not to worry. Her mother's words comforted Geerna, for Zera's body had endured the birth of four children and her figure still rivaled that of an Earth Mother carving.
The front edge of a towering glacier filled the northern skyline; the stories of the Teller of the Tell said it had always been so. In the summers, Geerna often looked at her own reflection in the still waters along the edges of the small pools created by the runoff from the melting ice. Her reflection revealed an elongated, ash-colored face with hollow eyes. The mangled locks of her profuse, ruddy brown hair overshadowed her thin young face. After seeing her reflection, she started pulling her hair together, allowing it to fall behind her back and spread out from a rawhide tie. As her hair cascaded down her back, it spread out as wide as her body when it reached her waist.
Geerna did not think of herself as young, even though the shape of her gangly body still betrayed the wonders of her gender. She had eagerly awaited the Earth Mother's Touch, fully aware of the perils of childbirth and the harshness of survival that often claimed the lives of girls soon after the commencement of their Flowing of the Blood. She knew her mother's longevity was unusual. Geerna expelled a shallow breath and squeezed her eyes shut; Blessed Shetow, Earth Mother, please grant me a life as long as my mother's. Her eyes opened and blinked. Her life was about to change and she could not remember a time when she had not aided her mother's foraging for food to feed their family. Now she dreamed of her own children and the man who would be their father. Geerna winced; flashes of her own father's blood-splattered and battered body filled her mind. Was it that long ago, she thought? She realized his death, and the too frequent deaths of the tribe's hunters, exacted a levy as severe on the tribe as the toll taken by women during the ordeal of childbirth. Life was hard for the People, yet Geerna was thankful to the Earth Mother for her precarious existence. Geerna knew Shetow had cast her special; once again, the lines of her face tightened, her eyes focused, and she felt that somehow the great Earth Mother would ensure her survival.
The last two days had been the most exhilarating time of Geerna's brief life. Now she sat for a second night in the gloomy Quary Hut, where all young girls stayed for four days after they finished the first part of the Quary — the females' rite of passage ceremony. At dusk of the fourth day, and without the aid of any male, the adult females of the tribe would build a monstrous fire. Even a tiny twig added by a male toddler imitating his mother's actions would defile the ritual. Younger girls not yet Touched by Shetow were also forbidden from taking part in feeding the ceremonial flame. The ritual blaze would be lit from the tribe's Life Fire; a gift from Shetow, when She started a brush fire with a lightning bolt. Now, the tribe's Life Fire — their only source of fire — was a small, ever-burning flame nurtured and protected by the tribe's Medora. The circular stack of stones that would later restrain the Quary Fire lay a short distance from a collection of squatty domed yurts and lean-tos partly constructed from the bones and tusks of the mammoths the tribe depended on for many of its necessities.
The hastily built thin reed walls of the Quary Hut could not support the massive weight of a mammoth hide and were instead covered only by loosely woven grasses between the saplings. However, the Quary Hut was not meant to keep the biting wind from reaching its occupant; rather, it gave the young female a place to meditate and prepare herself for assuming her new role in the life of the tribe. The Quary Hut signified the Womb of Shetow, the Great Earth Mother, and time in the hut offered an opportunity for reflection and growth. In two days, Geerna would step from the Quary Hut a grown woman, and after the Ritual of the Washing, ready to pair with a male and strengthen the tribe by bearing children.
Geerna had much to think about during her forced, but welcomed, incarceration in the frigid confines of the Quary Hut. After the days of snow, the flowers would bloom and then would be her Pairing with Yugadi, a young hunter of the Black Bear Tribe. Zera said Yugadi would be a good protector and provider for Geerna's future children. After his and Geerna's Pairing Ceremony, by custom, he would leave his tribe to join hers. She had never spoken to Yugadi but she had seen him at a distance each spring when all the tribes along the Silver River gathered to celebrate the Renewal of Life and dance in the jubilation of surviving another winter. She twisted a lock of her long, tangled hair around her little finger as she remembered the last Gathering when her mother, face glowing, crept into their hastily constructed lean-to to tell Geerna she had arranged Geerna's Pairing with Yugadi. Geerna smiled at the thought of her mother's giggles and bouncing breasts as Zera recounted the haggling with Yugadi's mother before she once again drifted into the story about her own arranged Pairing with Geerna's father many Gatherings earlier. Geerna forced back a grin as she thought of the upcoming event — days and nights of dancing, the gyrating movements of tightly packed people matching the thundering rhythm from hollow-log drums seeking Shetow's blessing for the new Cycle of Life and for those Pairing at the Gathering. For a brief moment, she wondered why men danced in one group and the women in another, and then grimaced as she remembered females were chosen by Shetow to be the instruments of Her gift of life to the People; females were special. Geerna fought back leaking tears; she knew the dancing to the Mother of Life brought the power of Shetow to the People; the dancing made sure the People never forgot that only with Shetow's blessing could life continue — and then only through the wonders of the female body.
In an effort to shake off the relentless chill, Geerna concentrated on the warm memory of her mother's milky voice. She closed her tear-swollen eyes as the remembrance of Zera's hypnotic murmur brought calmness and clarity to her jumbled thoughts. Zera had instructed her eldest daughter on the wonders of Shetow's world and the cycles Shetow used to govern over Her dominion — some cycles large, others small. Zera spoke of the journey of the seasons as a large cycle — from warm to cold, then cold to warm. In this cycle was the birthing of the herding animals: first, the great white snow elk, followed by the more abundant prairie buck. Zera had noted that even the cave lion bore her cubs the same time each year. With reverence, Geerna's mother often spoke of how only the birthing of the People's children and the calves of the mammoths moved outside this seasonal cycle. This she said was proof of the lofty position in which the Earth Mother held the People and the mighty mammoths. Geerna pulled her covering tight around her shoulders as she reflected on the Cycles of Life; events, Zera told her, that were especially important to the women. To signal a coming birth, Shetow broke a woman's cycle of the Flowing of the Blood. Although being Touched by Shetow meant womanhood, suspension of the Flowing of the Blood was a sure sign of the coming of a child. Geerna lifted her Quary Mask to rub her dried lips, which resembled half-healed scars blemishing the ashen skin of her taut face. She nodded unconsciously; she knew Shetow had made her and the rest of the People special; unlike the animals, the People's young could be born any season during the Great Cycle of Seasons. Instead, Shetow had given them this special sign to let the people know when they could expect the birth of a child. With quivering lips, Geerna forced a smile. Zera had said Shetow would give her the sign soon after her Pairing with Yugadi.
Eerie shadows cast by the moonlight invaded the solitude of the hut. Geerna could hear the night sounds, which fell on her attentive ears like sweet music. Each sound generated memories of her childhood; a childhood she was now preparing to leave. She reached for an upturned tortoise shell for a drink of water; a fragile film of ice covered the liquid's surface. Her mother had carefully cleaned and then bleached the shell in the sunlight to give her daughter a container to hold the water. The water Zera brought each day to refill the tortoise shell was the only sustenance Geerna could receive during her time in the Quary Hut. The Medora told Geerna the fasting cleared both the body and mind; however, nagging hunger was a regular companion to Geerna and the other members of the tribe. She pulled her arms close to her chest and pressed her hands against her flat belly; the growl in her stomach was no stranger. She bit her lower lip and spoke a few words of praise and thanks to Shetow; it was the hard times that made the spring Gatherings and the Renewal of Life celebrations so joyful.
The Medora had placed a woolly rhinoceros hide in the Quary Hut so Geerna's naked body could endure the relentless assault of the frigid night air. Geerna began to shiver uncontrollably and buried her head under the hide to warm herself. The thick hide was stiff, having been salted down and scraped but not tanned; its pervasive odor forced her to stick her nose past its gathered edges to breathe. The ocher mud the women smeared over her body at the end of the first day of the Quary ritual dried during her first night in the hut. She ran her right hand down her left arm, feeling the scaly texture of her crusty covering, which felt like the knurly bark of the ropper tree. While giving her a sense of comfort, the unfamiliar layer also awed her. The rough casing coated her entire body; Geerna felt she possessed a second skin — an additional layer of protection against the hardness and dangers faced daily by the members of the tribe. Heavy tentacles of matted hair and mud hung from her head. A Quary Mask was her only clothing and that was purely ornamental. The headdress consisted of a rawhide string circling her head with fur-covered strips of hides from seven different female animals hanging from the portion of the rawhide covering her forehead. The strips hanging from the Quary Mask obscured her face and blended with the mud-hair ropes dangling from her scalp. She would remove her mask after her pairing but would keep her hair rolled in mud-caked ropes for all the cycles of the seasons Shetow blessed her with the Flowing of the Blood.
The mud's earthy stench again prompted Geerna to remember the chants the women of the tribe had sung during the first night of her ceremony: the Tell of Shetow — the Earth Mother, giver of life, and ultimate source of all sustenance. Geerna's astute and nimble mind raced as she watched the moisture from her breath freeze on the coarse hairs of her rhinoceros-hide blanket. Her body made a sudden, unexpected jerk; she would soon be a vessel holding a life the Earth Mother would place in her belly. A sense of belonging filled her heart and for the first time the true power and meaning of the Quary Ceremony became clear to her. The tribe's women — like their mothers before them — used the Quary to ensure the new female members joining their group understood their new place in the life of the tribe.
Her breathing slowed. Geerna knew the order of the ritual by heart. At dusk of the fourth day, five women from the tribe would come and lead her to the Quary Fire. She closed her eyes and tried to envision how she would feel when, for the first time during the ceremony, she would stand nude before all the gathered members of the tribe — male and female, young and old. The hypnotic drone of the Teller's Tell of the Quary resonated in her mind. Geerna could almost see the tribe's Medora, aided by the four oldest women in the tribe, lifting a large conch shell and pouring water from the Silver River over her shoulders. As the sheets of cold liquid flowed down her shivering body, the caked earth would once again turn into grimy mud before sliding from her body. Geerna recalled the Quary Ceremonies she had attended as a child; as the mud washed off, a slick coat of dark red blood would appear as another layer, beneath the mud, completely covering the young female's body. During the first day of the ceremony she had learned about the Taking of the Blood, blood given by each adult female in the tribe, squeezed from tiny cuts made with a ceremonial flint flake, and collected in a seashell from the distant shore of the Unending Waters at the mouth of the Silver River. Geerna drew in and let out a deep breath; washing the blood off, she knew, represented a human rebirth; washing the mud off — Shetow's own substance — would represent Geerna's birth as one of the Earth Mother's own.
Geerna began to rock her body in an effort to stave off the creeping numbness slowly spreading over her. Like countless times before this moment, she tried to blot out the growing pain by focusing on the events that would culminate in the most important moments in her life. Encircling Geerna's Ritual of the Washing, the balance of the tribe's womanhood would chant and rock side-to-side as they watched the timeless ritual. Geerna knew the chanting and dancing were as important as the washing, for it made Shetow take notice of the great event — Shetow would know Geerna had joined the ranks of Her chosen. Geerna remembered the mystery in her mother's look as she explained how each of the Medora's exaggerated movements represented an indispensable part of the rite — motions depicting the ordeal and splendor of birth and life. The washing would strip off the fusion of mud and blood leaving her naked before the tribe — people she had known all her life. Geerna blushed at the thought; it would be the last time any male, besides her Pairing Partner, would ever see her completely nude. She thought of her wifyur, the short-reed waist apron worn by all mature females, that her mother had finished crafting the day before the tribe's Medora came for her. The People wore little clothing to ward away the chill of winter, but females, after their Quary Ceremony, always wore this sign of their devotion to the Earth Mother. Geerna brushed the tips of her fingers against the tender skin along her neck and arms. At the end of the washing, the last layer, her bare skin, would display a change since the time three days earlier when the male and young female members of the tribe had seen the Medora take her by the hand and lead her to the congregation of awaiting females. Now across her face and down her shoulders were tattooed rows of black dots, a sign of her womanhood and fertility, and in the eyes of the tribe, she knew, an enhancement of her female beauty.
Geerna opened her left hand. There lay the small ivory carving of the Earth Mother given to her during the first night of the ceremony. The figurine was crude, but to Geerna it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The carving plainly depicted a pregnant woman with enlarged breasts and a protruding belly out of proportion with the rest of the body; her hands and feet were small, almost indistinguishable. Geerna realized the carving had taken the Medora, using only brittle flint flakes, many days to fashion. This ivory symbol of Shetow would always be her most precious possession. All the other girls she knew received woodcarvings of Shetow. Geerna smiled; the ivory carving confirmed it. For the Medora to take such pains for Geerna's Quary Ceremony verified what many in the tribe had been whispering, that she was to become the aging Medora's apprentice. The thought of it brought as much excitement to her fluttering heart as her thoughts of Pairing with Yugadi. For the next few cycles of the seasons she would be trained in the ways of the Sisterhood of the Medoras — the guardians of the Truth of the Great Earth Mother and protectors of the tribes' Life Fires.
Excerpted from Elom by William H. Drinkard. Copyright © 2008 William H. Drinkard. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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Meet the Author
William H. Drinkard, an Alabama native, is a life long SF addict and novice SF writer. His main interest is SF novels with realistic alien cultures. He collects old books and first editions (non-SF, mostly 18th & 19th century works); he also collects Pre-Colombian Art and Middle-Eastern artifacts. He is the outgoing Chairman of the Alabama Historical Commission, which has charge of the State Capitol plus many of the state's historical sites. In his multifaceted life, he has been the VP of an advertising agency, a politician, hospital administrator, and real estate developer. He now operates a consulting business. Drinkard earned a BS at Auburn University and a MBA at Jacksonville State University. Elom is his first novel.
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A Great Read.I hope He writes a part 2
A great book. Could not put it down. It is a very fun re-read, always finding something new. Its worth the money, its worth double.
The People live a difficult but greateful life they are thankful for Fire from the Goddess Shetow and the hunt mostly of the mighty mammoth who provide food and clothing. All of the tribe know their role in keeping everyone safe, men mostly as hunters and women mostly as gatherers and artisans. Geerna realizes it is time for her to become a woman. She anxiously waits at the Awakening Place not knowing what to expect when a light shines brightly on her she begins a trek no member of the People has ever had to do before her.-------------- Eons pass with People remaining the same. They abide by Geerna¿s Law enforced by the Medora Council wise women until Shetow who chose Geerna to bring the covenant to the People demands they choose new champions. Those chosen must prove to their Goddess that the People remain worthy.---------------- Although the ending is too simple, readers will appreciate this strong reflective look at the interrelationships placed upon people by an external force (think in terms of bringing democracy to Iraq vs. internally the royals bringing democracy to the Kingdom of Bhutan) vs. ages of tradition. The story line is fast-paced, but driven by the magnificent seven who ponder their places in society and with one another. Fans will appreciate William H. Drinkard¿s thought provoking mythos.-------------- Harriet Klausner