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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Enchantress From the Stars

If you care about the future of Earth, you should care about space!  --Sylvia Engdahl
Originally published in 1970, Enchantress From the Stars was redesigned and a new edition published in 2001. It is now being discovered by a new generation of readers. I read it years ago and when I saw the beautiful new edition last year, I picked it up and enjoyed getting reacquainted with Elana and Georyn.

Enchantress From the Stars is the story of three civilizations at different stages of evolution. Any one of them could be ours, in the past, in the near future, or in the far future. Elana, a young member of the Federation, an advanced race with psychic abilities, ends up helping her father and fiancé on an urgent and unexpected mission to save the world of Andrecia. This was not supposed to happen. She is young and untrained, and they were on their way to a family reunion. But she is also highly curious, and manages to get herself in place, thinking that she will get to go on a grand adventure.

The book draws on the language of fable and fairy tale for Georyn's story and that of space invaders with ray guns for the intermediate civilization, the Empire, that is attempting to plant a colony on Andrecia. The locals view the land chewing machine brought in by the Empire as a dragon living in an enchanted forest. The local king sends warriors to fight it, and eventually the locals think to send in a virgin to appease it. Only the expedition's doctor is bothered by the treatment of the indigenous population, who are usually stunned and held in confinement, but also occasionally vaporized. And those held captive are to be sent back to the Empire as specimens to be studied in a lab. Elana's father determines that the best course of action is to use the belief of the "younglings" in magic to access the latent telekinetic talents of one of them and prepare him to demonstrate this ability, hoping to scare the highly technical and nonbelieving Empire into leaving this planet alone.

Elana must play the role of the Enchantress, setting tasks Georyn to help him find the courage and ability he will need to play his role. As she interacts with the young man to help him develop his natural ESP and telekinetic ability, the enchantress becomes enchanted by him, his courage, intelligence and determination, his curiosity and his desire to grow beyond the world into which he was born. She wonders at one point what it might be like to see each other just as a boy and a girl, not as beings from different realms, who must soon separate, as she must return to hers when the task is completed. Falling in love was not part of the plan. But, even though they know that their love can never be completely fulfilled, in the end, it is their love for each other that saves them both and saves Georyn's world.

The author has an interesting website where you can learn more about her belief that our future lies in the stars, that terrorism is just one sign of planetary overcrowding and how important it is that we seek solutions for what ails our planet.

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