Saturday, February 18, 2012

Review: "Resurrection" by Arwen Elys Dayton

All that Egyptology I was missing in "The Scarab"? I found it in Arwen Elys Dayton's "Resurrection."

You wouldn't think so, right off the bat. "Resurrection" starts by introducing its heroine, Pruit Pax, as she awakens from a form of hibernation. She and her partner, Niks, are on a years-long journey from their home planet, Herrod, to Earth in search of the remains of a former expedition. Their race - humans, same as you and I - is at war with a race of true aliens, and Pruit has to find technology from that previous group of explorers so her people (the Kinley) can survive. Her arrival on Earth is complicated, of course, and it's only with the help of her technology and an American dilettante named Eddie that she has any hope of succeeding.
Interspersed throughout Pruit's story are flashbacks of that first Kinley expedition, one intended to catalog the life on Earth that's so similar to life on their home planet. The crew members, who take names based on their roles in the mission, touch down in ancient Egypt. Through a combination of coincidence, bad luck and bad timing, the crew's captain is mistaken for the Egyptian god Osiris and their ship is lost.

As events in both time periods unfold, we learn how ancient Egypt managed to create such magnificently complex architectural feats as the great pyramids, how the Kinley - or some of them, anyway - survived being stranded on Earth, and how Pruit can save her race from the fate it faces.

That seems far more complex when I try to sum it up than it did when I read it, so don't let that put you off.

The sci-fi angle - in particular, the Kinley technology - is nicely done. Their planet, which is a nuclear wasteland, lacks mineable metals, so their technology has evolved around biological mediums. The beds in which the travelers hibernate are an excellent example:
There was a shift in the fluid, and in a moment she could feel it draining away. It slid off of her face, and now she could see Niks more clearly. The plantglass retracted from the top of the crib, and she felt the brush of air from the ship. It seemed too cold. All over her body, bloodarms and feedarms were gently releasing her and moving back into the wombwalls of the crib, leaving no trace on her of their presence. A reedy breatharm withdrew from her throat, and she gagged.
(Those beds, by the way, are the direct cause of one of the most heart-wrenching and credible character deaths I've ever read.)

The tie-in with ancient Egypt is entertaining, though I kept expecting that subplot to meet up with the main story again. About halfway through, the crew in ancient Egypt does take action that has significant repercussions on the future team, but then the storyline keeps going. It has its own resolution, but that culmination has no bearing on the main story. (Unless I missed something? I don't think I did, but the book was well-written enough that it's certainly possible.)

Dayton didn't leave much room for a sequel at the end, which is a shame, but hopefully she'll keep writing books in this vein.