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Kirinyaga Hardcover – March 17, 1998
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Kirinyaga: A Fable of Utopia collects Mike Resnick's famous Kirinyaga stories and ties them together in a thematic arc that has novel-like continuity. The story focuses on Koriba, a mundumugu (sort of like a witch doctor and a wise man rolled into one) of the Kikuyu tribe. Koriba feels that his tribe has been corrupted by "European" technology, so he helps to establish a small, utopian planetoid named Kirinyaga where the Kikuyu can return to their roots, farming the land and worshipping the god Ngai without technological or cultural interference. As utopias go, Kirinyaga experiences its fair share of problems--both from within and without--each of which is detailed in the individual chapters and stories. The writing is not stylish but the stories are all excellent, and Resnick does a good job of integrating the traditional Kikuyu way of life into tales that any culture can appreciate. Readers looking for a novel may come away a bit disappointed because this book is really a collection of stories, but as far as collections go, few are better than Kirinyaga.
From School Library Journal
YA-Set in the 22nd century, this stunning sci-fi allegory describes the struggles and ultimate failure of a utopian colony on a terraformed planetoid. In the African nation of Kenya, polluted cities crawl up the side of Mount Kirinyaga. The magnificent animal herds of the past are but distant memories and native crops have been supplanted by European imports. Koriba, a well-educated man, is determined to reinstate the ancient customs and strict laws of his Kikuyu ancestors and invites others to join him in a new society named for their sacred mountain. As the mundumugu-witch doctor-Koriba faces numerous challenges to the utopian society's survival. He must deny a brilliant young woman an education because it is not the ancient way of his people. He watches helplessly as his charges insist on bringing in a white hunter with a gun to kill marauding hyenas when the colony's primitive weapons prove insufficient. With the technology comes subservience to white men's ways. But, in an ultimate irony, Koriba maintains his pure society with a computer link to the rest of humanity, even adjusting weather patterns by communicating his needs to an outside "Maintenance" group. It is the thirst for knowledge that this computer represents that becomes the ultimate threat to the colony. Young adults will love this provocative tale that examines the need for an orderly society, the rights of the individual, and the siren's lure of knowledge.
Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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It's an interesting book in that this community of people live as a primitive tribe, just as they did in Africa, only they have been transplanted to a planetoid. But the science fiction aspect of it is very slight - we almost felt tricked into reading a more literate and meaningful book than we set out to read, but what a reward.
The structure of the book is that it is a series of short stories that all weave together to make a cohesive novel. One of the stories "For I Have Touched the Sky" stands on its own and was the unanimous favorite pick of our family and those with whom we shared it. Heartbreaking in its emotional power.
Do yourself a favor and buy this book while you can. Just be careful whom you lend it to!
This is the only Kindle book with which I've encountered this kind of problem, yet I'm hesitating to order any further Mike Resnick books in Kindle format, because it is probable that they too were produced by the same flawed conversion process.
For the time being, I'll purchase traditional books when looking for another Mike Resnick story.
I rate the story itself as average.
This is a remarkable book, written with so much wisdom and insight. The dialogue and prose is sharp and controlled. Resnick presents both sides of the arguments with such clarity and humanity, it's sometimes heartbreaking. Koriba's well-intentioned but ultimately misguided crusade against change is challenged again and again, not necessarily by the "outside", but by the "inside" - the minds and hearts of his villagers. It's fascinating to see how he resolves these challenges to his authority and his hopes for the Kikuyu ... and sometimes downright scary.
The book also shows us the erroneous assumption of multiculturalism - that everything in every culture is worth saving and perpetuating. The modern myths of the Kikuyu - and indeed of many peoples on this planet - that "the West" is to blame for their condition and/or corruption (and everything "Western" should therefore be anathema) is not spared. It's tempting to carry on here about the general public's overwhelming ignorance of Africa's booming slave trade, because it's all in the same vein.
The stories show that for all our differences in time and space, people are the same everywhere - and that is the "problem" that cannot be controlled by isolation.
The reality is that every culture is always changing. The Kikuyu ways Koriba is trying to preserve are only a snapshot of a tribe that is both naturally degenerating (see "Eternity in Their Hearts", by Don Richardson) and gravitating towards "Western" ways - which, by the way, were largely exported from the Mediterranean, that is, from Israel! (See "How the Irish Saved Civilization", "The Gifts of the Jews", "Desire of the Everlasting Hills" by Thomas Cahill.) No culture is meant to live in statis, nor can it be done. Peoples and people are meant to grow, to mature. Multiculturalism can serve us by preserving, recording, or interpreting that which is worth saving; but it's self-evident (I hope) that it should stop at re-instituting human sacrifices, or some of the more subtle horrors we read of in this book. And that fact alone should make us question some of the sillier aspects of this trend.
The view that everyone is of equal worth, that freedom, accountability, and responsibility are important clues about what it means to be human. The dangers inherent in free will, and the element of curiosity sometimes recalls the Garden of Eden, but this is no Paradise. The problems of humanity, it is shown, lie squarely within.