Monday, September 27, 2004

Table of the Lord by Ono Ekeh Review from Roundtable

ISBN: 1-4137-1010-7

Reviewed By Beverly Forehand

The Fenaarq, an enlightened and seemingly benevolent alien race, have determined that Earth is worthy of study and preservation. Guided by a council of Nobles, the Fenaarq have their own Star Trek-esque Prime Directive—planets with life forms capable of evolving into a god-like state are not to be contacted or contaminated with Fenaarq culture. Xameg, a brilliant scientist and non-Noble, believes that Earth has the potential of becoming a realm of gods and that the people of Earth, despite their current primal and violent state, could someday rival even the gods of the Fenaarq in their majesty.

Bulario, Xameg’s lover and the Chief Officer of the research vessel hovering over Earth, disagrees with his assessment, but is willing to present his findings to the Council for consideration. Bulario is shocked to learn that Xameg’s research has shown that the blood of the people of Earth is the key to their divine evolution. What Xameg fails to tell Bulario is that he believes this blood could be the key to the evolution of non-noble Fenaarq to a state of nobility or even divinity. Xameg, obsessed by the potential uses of this sanguinary ambrosia, stages a mutiny, taking a good part of Bulario’s crew with him to earth.

Once on Earth, they must assume human form and consume goody quantities of blood to maintain the integrity of their new bodies. Bulario, with the blessing of the Council of Nobles sets out to find the rapacious Xameg and stop his plan to harvest blood for his own personal uses. Bulario realizes almost immediately that she’ll need the help of the people of Earth if she is to stop Xameg and his cohorts without revealing the other Fenaarq and their sinister plans. Xameg, likewise, needs help to obtain blood regularly and to continue his research. Both Xameg and Bulario, unbeknownst to one another, infiltrate the Catholic Church.

Xameg finds the Eucharist, with its divine transformation of wine to blood, gives him an unlimited supply of super-charged blood that allows him and his crew to maintain their illusionary forms for greater periods of time. Bulario finds the Church’s infrastructure, network of contacts, and good-hearted interests meet her needs in her crew’s search and destroy mission. Bulario’s task is complicated by an illness which strikes her home planet, which could seemingly be cured by human blood, human politics, a double-agent in her own midst, and her own growing infatuation with human culture and the Church itself. Will Bulario be able to stop Xameg before it’s too late? Is there any hope left for her lover or has he abandoned the Fenaarq way completely? Will Bulario be willing to leave the planet and Church to which she has grown so accustomed when her mission is complete?

This is a fascinating book. It’s rare to find a novel that mixes the metaphysics, aliens, vampirism, and philosophy while maintaining a cohesive story line and interesting plot. The characters in TABLE OF THE LORD are compelling and well rounded. The "bad guys" are as deep and riveting as the heroes. I was reminded of Ellis Peter’s writing in that no character is completely irredeemable. And, in the end, this is a story about redemption. Although most of the main characters are alien, this is a story about the human spirit and its capacity for belief—what drives a man to have faith or to lose it? What would anyone be willing to sacrifice to be divine? Would it be worth losing one’s own soul?

Ono Ekeh’s novel raises many soul-searching questions about the Church, faith, the essence of the Divine, and our capacity to forgive. There’s quite a bit of politics scattered throughout this story—as the title implies. So, if you enjoy political intrigue, you’ll find plenty in the sci-fi thriller. Readers of sci-fi will find the Fenaarq intriguing and the pace of the novel is quick and entertaining. There’s a lot of philosophic debate for those willing to look deeper and read between the lines as well. This is a complex book that reads like a summer sci-fi novel. Despite it's deep reaching issues on religion and faith in general, this book doesn’t bog the reader down in semantics. Good work, Mr. Ekeh. I look forward to reading more of your novels in the future.

Well, thank you Beverly, I certainly wasn't expecting it. I do have another sci-fi novel in the works. It is at 53,000 words and presently 75%-80% complete.


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