The Anomalous Archive, Part XVI: 'Capturing Whirlwind' by G.L. Francis

[This review was originally posted on the Anomaly forum on January 7, 2011.]

"Capturing Whirlwind," 1st in Issue 6 of The Cross and the Cosmos 

This first exposition into the Bermuda Expanse reveals an idealized Christian community through the eyes of a would-be enemy. This short story accomplishes a good amount of characterization for the Bermuda Expanse setting. The Christians of Jerem seem like they came out of the pages of the New Testament, which is interesting to find in a far-future science fiction story, set on a distant planet far away from Earth. They appear to be both pacifistic and somewhat anti-technology, but I suppose that they hold to neither as legalistic restrictions, but rather end up living without both violence and much technology as a result of their lifestyle, based on faith and mutual love. A civilization that has an antique, agrarian style on the edge of known space, is somewhat comparable to the setting of the old TV series Firefly, which I don't really recommend much. The only thing Firefly and "Capturing Whirlwind" have in common is futuristic technology coexisting with historical agricultural methods and quaint country communities.

As much as I like the setting of "Capturing Whirlwind," it is also the story's greatest problem. It seems like the Christian society of Jerem is just too perfect to be real, and the the protagonist's discoveries (which I won't spoil here) seem a little too optimistic to be likely. I could accept the thing that the protagonist discovers as the point of the story, but when coupled with the perfect Christian community, I can't help but feel slightly incredulous. From what I can recall from the Book of Acts, the first community of Christians in Jerusalem existed for a while in wonderful fellowship and selflessness, but it wasn't very long at all until two factions developed. I was raised in a church, and as a child was initially educated in a homeschool club that had many Christian members, and then in a private Christian school. The only community I have been widely involved with for most of my life has been a Christian community, yet I have never seen the kind of peace and fellowship that this story depicts.

But can it really be said to be bad style to idealize like this? Science fiction and fantasy are full of authors' projections of perfect beings or beauty or cultures or heroism. As Christians, we wish we could see and experience the perfect Christian community. Why should we not dream that some day, somewhere in the vast universe that God made, such a community might exist?

The characters in "Capturing Whirlwind" are probably more of a selling point than the setting. Although I have accused the setting of the Christian community to be too idealized, the Christian characters are shown as real people. Even the best one of them has moments of fear and doubt. The Ssstha race came across sufficiently convincingly to me to dispel my first mental picture of a cuddly lizard man. The most significant sci-fi element in the story is part of another very interesting side character. The protagonist is intriguing and has as much potential for further stories as Nerelos from Francis's "Ley of the Minstrel" from Issue 2.

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