Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: The Book of Thomas: Volume One: Heaven

The Book of Thomas: Volume One: Heaven
The Book of Thomas: Volume One: Heaven by Robert Boyczuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark Speculative Fiction
Reading Level: While the characters are MG to YA, this book is definitely written for adults
Recommended for: Fans of dark speculative fiction, those who like having a riddle to solve, philosophy, comparative religions, etc.
Trigger Warnings: rape (m/m, m/f), pedophilia, violence, bullying, killing

My Thoughts: The last book I read by Robert Boyczuk was one of only three books in my entire life to give me nightmares. So I had high expectations. This book surpassed them. On its surface it appears to be about the boy, Thomas, and his attempts to survive after his father is killed as a heretic. But if you pay attention, the story is much deeper. I don't want to spoil things, but when I had my epiphany I was so excited I started babbling like a crazy person about this book.
It is not those who are unashamedly evil that we need fear the most, for their intentions are plain; rather, our fear should be reserved for those equivocators who would allow evil to flourish, and name it good so they might sleep better at night.
As is often the case in this sort of story, religious authorities are shown to be thoroughly human and fallible, despite the dogma that says otherwise. The idea of this... world? Planet?... that is made up of 14 level of spheres one inside the other, from Heaven down to Hell, is interesting. I spent a lot of time early on in the book trying to figure out when it was set, because mention is made of Napoleon, Shakespeare, and city names that currently exist, but the population is much less, and the technology medieval at best, except for a few “magical” artifacts. I'll let you draw your own conclusions, but I have my suspicions about when and where this is taking place, and I can not wait for the next book in this series. Unfortunately there is no word on when that might be. To Robert Boyczuk I say, “Write! Write like the wind!” That is two series by this author that are on my must-read list for the future.

If you like dark speculative fiction, stories that give you riddles to solve, philosophical thoughts and theories on religions, you should enjoy this story. It is not a pretty world, and some fairly awful things happen to some of the characters, but it's a really good story. Highly recommended.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel from ChiZine in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: "The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven." — John Milton, Paradise Lost

In the beginning, the Church ruled all the Spheres of the Apostles. But that was millennia ago, before the origins of this massive, artificial realm were forgotten. Now, drought, plague and war afflict the Spheres that make up the world of Man, fragmenting society into antagonistic sects that carry out ruthless pogroms.

A young orphan, Thomas, is thrust into the midst of this upheaval and embarks on a journey to the highest of all Spheres, Heaven. As he struggles through his chaotic, crumbling world, Thomas witnesses cruelty and violence beyond measure—and chances upon unexpected moments of courage and self-sacrifice. In this turmoil, his belief becomes doubt as he is forced to make soul-rending choices between what his faith tells him he should do, and what he must do to survive.

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