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Friday, June 14, 2013

That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made by Eric James Stone

Originally Published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact in September of 2010.
Winner of the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.
Nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novelette.

I found this unique science fiction short story by Eric James Stone with my kindle, one of those happy accidents you sometimes get when you surf around on Amazon.

The story is about a funds manager for CitiAmerica who is stationed at the sun. Actually, just inside of the sun (but not too far in, that would be dangerous!). Stars are used to create interstellar portals - those portals require so much energy that only stars can provide them. So, our fund manager, Harry Stein, is located at the sun because he gets the news from other systems about eight-and-a-half minutes before funds managers on Earth (news can only travel as fast as the speed of light).

Harry is a Mormon and is the "branch president" of the Sol Central Mormon congregation. He has six human members and forty-six swale members. Swales are very large plasma life forms that live in stars and have been travelling from star to star for a hundred thousand years. Swales live hundreds of years and the younger swales have an interest in humans and, apparently, Mormonism

A swale member approaches Stein and asks for help with a situation. This swale has been forced to have sex with another swale. Humans would call it rape. Swales have no such concept. As Stein starts talking to human experts he finds that he must talk to Leviathan, the oldest and biggest swale of all...

What I liked about this book is that the author did not do what so many science fiction authors assume would happen - human religion would collapse at the time of contact with an alien species. Sure, there are some superficial changes, such as the Mormon Church having to re-write some passages to account for the swales having three genders, but the essence of Mormon theology is left so intact that there are missionaries (you know, those nice young men with the white shirts and the ties on bicycles) sent to the newest mission field of all - the sun.

I also like the humor of Harry Stein. He is a layman who is doing his best in the strangest of situations. Plus, he's very aware that there are precious few women that he could date on Sol Central Station, let alone Mormon women. He sadly notes that there are no unmarried Mormon women within 90,000,000 miles in any direction! But, the solcetologist (person who studies swales) who thinks that the Mormons should leave the swales alone is single and awfully attractive...

Like I noted above, this short story was a pleasant surprise. I am not Mormon, but you do not have to be Mormon to follow along with this story.

I rate this story 5 stars out of 5.

This novelette can be found on Amazon.com here: That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made

Reviewed on June 14, 2013.

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