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Stewards of the Flame Paperback – August 24, 2009
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"A brilliant twist on dystopianism. . . . The book builds just the right amount of tension, and shows the stark reality of benevolent tyranny, one that any so-called democracy could creep towards quite easily." --Prometheus
"A chilling look at what extreme socialized medicine could become in the hands of a dictatorial medical regime. . . Would make an excellent discussion topic for a book club." --MyShelf.com
"A suspenseful and thought-provoking novel that seems so plausible that it sends chills up my spine . . . truly a masterpiece of parapsychological science fiction." --Rebecca's Reads
"Grips the attention with the raw immediacy of the problems. . . . It asks the sort of questions only SF can pose, and paints a vivid picture of where failing to answer those questions might lead. . . . Stewards is the kind of SF I've been craving!" --Jacqueline Lichtenberg, Monthly Aspectarian
From the Author
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Top Customer Reviews
On the positive side, the author has a smooth writing style, and the last 200 pages or so have a skillful and action-packed plot. I cared about what happened to the characters and there were a lot of surprise twists.
But the first part of the book is extremely didactic, with many pages where characters don't converse so much as give long lectures to the main character. It is reminiscent of parts of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged in that sense, even if not completely Randian in philosophy, so a reader's tolerance for that type of writing will affect his or her enjoyment of the book.
(Some potential spoilers in next part.)
Also, in a lot of ways the main character is being inducted into a cult - a loving group of people, led by a saintly and infallible and mostly behind-the-scenes leader, who isolate the main character and teach him the "Truth." The characters also give away all their money to further the purposes of the group, among other things. Some of the cult-like aspects are played down as the novel goes on, and the author is at pains to emphasize "don't try this at home" with the rituals, but it was still mostly treated in an admiring way, which was disturbing.
And the philosophy being taught is quite controversial. The book takes a very libertarian view towards medicine and is highly skeptical of conventional medical treatment. What I personally found objectionable was the idea that pharmaceuticals to treat mental illness cause "brain damage" and people should go off their meds. Yes, people may be over medicated today, but this advice could be very dangerous for some people.Read more ›
STEWARDS also joins the earlier trilogy in seeing space colonization as humanity's only hope, although just what `space colonization' consists of is defined far more elliptically in the current novel, and in seeing ritual as an important way to strive towards this hope.
Readers may have certain procedural issues with the book: the love of Jesse and Carla seems to flower too early (although revelations about Carla's past later somewhat explain this), female minor characters like Kira and Michelle sometimes seem interchangeable, the crucial Zeb subplot is introduced without adequate preparation, and the character of Ian is under-sketched. This is important as ian is a crucial precedent and inspiration for Peter, the compassionate, self-abnegating leader of the group, dedicated to the paranormal, that Jesse, joins after he realizes the totalitarian nature of those who control the planet Undine.Read more ›
But she reenters the world of contemplative sci-fi again with "Stewards of the Flame," a slow-moving but rewarding novel about the power of the human mind and spirit. It takes a long time to really get moving, but it's pretty brilliant once it revs up -- an intense journey of impressive proportions.
Jesse is a newly-promoted starship captain... until he gets drunk on the planet Undine, and is imprisoned in the vast, dictatorial Hospital. On Undine, illness is a crime, and the doctors rule everyone. Jesse is forced through alcohol and psychiatric treatment, and used as a student guinea pig.... until a young technician, Carla, smuggles him out to a gathering of her friends, known as the Group.
The Group turns out to be more than just a collection of friends -- they are rebels, who have expanded their paranormal powers, and undermine the Hospital's attempts to put the dying into eternal stasis. Soon Jesse is involved deeply in their quiet rebellion, and acquiring the same powers. But he doesn't yet know how important he is to the Group's future...
"Stewards of the Flame" isn't your typical sci-fi novel, since the future here isn't too far ahead of our own, and little of the plot is spent in space. Instead, it's about a medical dystopia, and its story overflows with psychic explorations, true love, quiet rebellion, holistic healing, and a bit of Joseph Campbell.
It sounds a little dull, and admittedly it moves at a slow pace for awhile, as Jesse learns and explores his new powers.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Turgid, didactic writing but an OK story for science fiction. If you don't mind Lovecraft's writing style you won't mind this guy's.Published 16 months ago by Tech Advice
The book doesn't get to the good parts until the middle of "Part 4". I had to make myself keep reading, but once it picked up it stayed that way.Published 16 months ago by Kimberly Marshall
Great book. Imagines a society where an obsession with medical care is taken to extremes. And tells the story of a group developing a different way of dealing with their well... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Barbara A Koehler
The best sci-fi in my opinion is based on the things we already know to be true. This book has positive underpinnings and its near future plausible.Published 19 months ago by J. Shipman
Incredible story and the writing isn't bad either - yes, it could be told in fewer words, and yes, the action could've moved faster, but all together this was excellent story... Read morePublished 23 months ago by louisa dyer
Okay read. Way too much talking, not enough action. Could have been a lot shorter.Published 24 months ago by gurwwof
This is a futuristic novel- I choose that description because 'sci-fi' seems to imply more technological twists than the books really feature. Read morePublished 24 months ago by J. Martin
Stewards of the Flame gives you an insight into the possibility that our brains are capable of much more than we think. Read morePublished on July 15, 2014 by MoneyManRod
Great book very thought provoking. Especially at this time with the Affordable Health Care Act(Obama Care) being such a hot topic. We should always be careful what we wish for. Read morePublished on June 29, 2014 by Eric W Perry