Friday, August 31, 2007

Playing God

I don’t know why, but some folks seem to be fascinated by the idea that a human can play God, or be mistaken for some deity or other. Recently, I reread one such book, Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair. This science fiction romance was originally published by the now defunct LTD books using the pen name, Megan Sybil Baker, but it has been re-released in mass market paperback by Bantam. The story begins in a traditional science fiction manner, using the time travel theme. Readers will enjoy her winning characterizations and sufficient intrigue to keep the pages turning. Fans of fantasy will really enjoy the last half of the book, as Gillie has to reveal her powers, layer by layer, to save the Fifth Fleet, her new found love, and be true to her mission and herself. This novel has much to like, including an examination of what folks worship and why. Since the deity involved isn’t really a deity at all, it is just an accident in time and space, this exploration of humanity’s need for a god-figure shouldn’t offend anyone. Instead, it added a thoughtful aspect to a book which might otherwise be just another romantic comedy.

Author P.C. Cast takes a similar premise, but puts a classical spin on it in her debut novel, Goddess by Mistake. I understand that she rewrote this yarn for mass market publication, including a new title, but I read it in the original small press edition. Cast, an English teacher by trade, now has several books out with one of the larger publishers. I also read her novel, Goddess of the Sea, but I enjoyed the quirky and often quite humorous small press book more. For some readers, saying a book different isn’t a compliment, but for me it is, and Goddess by Mistake is quite different. As an English teacher who’d like to have a publishing career, I see Cast as having accomplished the goals I once set before myself, so bravo Ms. Cast!

Sarah Zettel is writing fantasy romance for the Luna line of books these days, no doubt due to a desire to get paid more for her writing, but her she began her career producing harder sci fi. Indeed, her third novel, Playing God, is infused with strong writing, terrific world-building, complex characterizations, and unique aliens. Zettel has a technical writing background, which lends authenticity to her science fiction. Her sophomore novel, Fool’s War, also examines religious concepts, and I liked it more than Playing God. The main premise of Fool’s War has more to do with Artificial Intelligence than being deified, but Zettel is a remarkable writer who makes me think, and I enjoy that.

Some video games are called “God Games” since the player gets to control just about everything. My hubby is inordinately fond of such games. His all time favorite is "Civilization." I am not sure what he does while playing it, but the game seems addictive. Daughter prefers to rule the lives of some artificial people known as the “Sims,” but being all powerful can keep her entertained for hours on end.

Of course, being a deity has been played for laughs on the big screen more than once. Remember George Burns in “Oh, God”? More recently, my children and I also enjoyed “Bruce Almighty” wherein one of the downsides of being deified is having to either grant or not grant all those prayer requests. I really can’t imagine having all that pouring in, which is why I never want to play God.

Reading about it is rather fun and sometimes even thought provoking, however....

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