Kethani (2008)

Eric Brown’s Kethani is a fix-up novel, strapping a couple of short stories together that cover the arrival of the alien Kethani. The aliens offer humanity the gift of immortality and the stars. Each of the stories collected gives a very personal account on how those gifts effect individual lives.

When I started reading it, the novel was everything I expected it to be. Extremely well written stories that managed the balance act between exploring a big idea and yet fitting those explorations into a human perspective. Brown’s fiction has always been excellent when exploring the sadder part of the human condition (cue: The Time-Lapsed Man). He’s very good at desolation, despair and misery. On the other hand, when he tries to be positive or tries to end a narrative on a more optimistic note, it falls apart (cue: Engineman).

The second half of Brown’s book shifts more and more toward exploring the Kethani themselves and their gift of the stars. He tries to show a humanity that evolved, has become better with a little help. Brown completely downplays that the Kethani regularly alter the minds of the humans in their care. That they withhold essential information from us. It all doesn’t matter, as it’s only done to help us humans become more humane. It’s for a good cause.

What a fucking load of crap. It’s funny how the book is so completely down on religions or shows them waning with the coming of the Kethani, only to essentially replace God and his angels with the Kethani. We can’t understand them or their motives, it’s beyond our ability to comprehend. We have to take it all on faith that what they do is to our benefit. I’m not sure if Brown is believing his own bullshit here, but at the end of the book I was quite horrified how anyone could sell the things that happened as something happy and positive.

I can understand the urge to go out there and explore. The need for bettering humanity. But I think choices and freedom are more important than imposed happiness. The book even expects us to believe that every human, sooner or later, discovers the urge to explore the stars. Well, the brainwashing of the Kethani must be quite effective. The first half of the book is excellent science fiction, but the second half is a lot of preaching, written in a gushing, vomit-inducing style. If I wanted to get evangelized, I would go to church.