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Kirinyaga Paperback – May 25, 1999
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"Ambitious . . . Well-written . . . A novel of ideas."
--The New York Times Book Review
"RESNICK IS THOUGHT-PROVOKING, IMAGINATIVE . . . AND ABOVE ALL GALACTICALLY GRAND."
--Los Angeles Times
"Among the most highly respected--and controversial--of modern SF stories. Resnick's experiences in Africa form the basis for this epic tale of a leader of the Kikuyu people who leads his followers away from a polluted, overpopulated Kenya to the planet Kirinyaga, which in many ways resembles the Africa of his ancestors. There he attempts to recreate the culture of the past. . . . The situation is rich with complications. . . . the conflict between the environment and technology in certain situations and the role of religion in human affairs. Parts of the book will make you mad, parts will make you sad, and parts will make you proud, but none of the parts will bore you. If only one of Resnick's books will be remembered by history, this will be the one."
--Science Fiction Chronicle
"Nobody spins a yarn better than Mike Resnick. Best of all, when the story's over, you find that he's left something in your memory for you to draw on again and again: a clearer understanding of how nobility emerges from the struggles of life."
--ORSON SCOTT CARD
Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Ender's Game
"It's such a very human thing to recreate the 'good old days' when life was simple and people behaved piously, when the old ways ruled and the world was a better place. Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga explores some of the problems of such a retreat into an idealized past. The book is subtitled A Fable of Utopia. Now, as we face the turn of the millennium, we need such fables, such simple reminders of what complicated beings we are."
--OCTAVIA E. BUTLER
Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of Kindred
From the Inside Flap
Hailed for his grandeur of imagination and superb worldbuilding, winner of and nominee for more than fifty awards for his outstanding work, Mike Resnick has rightfully won a place as one of science fiction's master storytellers. Now, in Kirinyaga, Resnick presents the haunting and utterly compelling tale of one man's utopia.
By the twentieth second century in the African nation of Kenya, polluted cities sprawl up the flanks of sacred Mount Kirinyaga. Great animal herds are but distant memories. European crops now grow on the sweeping savannas. But Koriba, a distinguished, educated man of Kikuyu ancestry, knows that life was different for his people centuries ago--and he is determined to build a utopian colony, not on earth, but on the terraformed planetoid he proudly names Kirinyaga.
As the mundumugu--witch doctor--Koriba leads the colonists. Reinstating the ancient customs and stringent laws of the Kikuyu people, he alone decides their fate. He must face many challenges to the struggling colony's survival: from a brilliant young girl whose radiant intellect could threaten their traditional ways to the interference of "Maintenance" which holds the power to revoke the colony's charter. All the while, only Koriba--unbeknownst to his people--maintains the computer link to the rest of humanity.
Ironically, the Kirinyaga experiment threatens to collapse--not from violence or greed--but from humankind's insatiable desire for knowledge. The Kikuyu people can no more stand still in time than their planet can stop revolving around its sun.
Deeply moving, swiftly paced, and profound in its implications, Kirinyaga is Mike Resnick's most triumphant work to date. His Fable of Utopia is the book every science fiction reader will want to own and savor for years to come.
From the Hardcover edition.
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The book is a braided novel (a series of short stories that, collectively, function as a novel), and it made me fall in love with the form. The prologue shows Koriba saying goodbye to his estranged son as he leaves Kenya (which has become completely Westernized by then) for the terraformed planetoid of Kirinyaga, where a tribal culture of Kikuyu (an ethnic group in Kenya) that has rejected technology (much like the Amish) lives, and he will be the witch doctor/wise man. At first Koriba is able to win against problems that arise in his utopia, sometimes at great cost, but the problems grow with each short story (or novelette, or novella), and ultimately, his utopia goes in a different direction than he intended. Inevitably, (spoiler alert!) he and his utopia reject each other. The epilogue is about how he resolves the matter in his life.
Some object to various inconsistencies (for example, how does a planetoid manage to have gravity like Earth?), but Mike Resnick has stated in another work that he’s not a hard-science writer, or even a soft-science writer, but “a limp-science writer”—in fact, a similar issue is discussed in the story itself. The value of this book is not scientific, but literary. The point is not how they build Kirinyaga, but how the society functions once they are there. There may even be some inaccurate ideas about Kikuyu culture, for all I know (I'm not an expert on that topic), but the basic idea remains unchanged.
This book is good for people who like the classics (it has all the deep thought of a classic) and those who don’t (which I was when I first read it).
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.