First Lines: The Edge of the World

A progrock-album written and produced by Erik Norlander, with vocals by James LaBrie and Lana Lane? Sure, why not. In February the first Roswell Six album was announced as a companion CD to Kevin J. Anderson‘s first novel in the Terra Incognita trilogy. I ordered both the album and the book, and I just finished reading it yesterday.

Imagine two continent-sized countries who are connected with a small isthmus on which lies the holy city of both countries’ religion.* Then, imagine the holy city burning down to the ground, both sides blaming each other and religion being used as a means to incite hatred between the populations. To paint the big picture: it’s a bit like muslims living in North-America, christians in South-America, Jerusalem located at the site of the Panama canal, it’s the 11th century and both sides are about to launch a crusade. That, in a nutshell, is what The Edge of the World is about. If you add some sea monsters and the need to explore the world, that is.

One thing about the book annoyed me to no end: almost everything any character does is inspired by religious zealotry. Everything is done in order to glorify the appropriate deity or to spread the word of their good book. Justifying violence, citing from the holy book. And that gets old. Really, really fast. Eventually, little seeds of doubt are being sown in several characters, who open up a tiny bit to the possibility that their side might just not be entirely right.

And that was one of the things I did like: it’s not your typical good guys vs. bad guys setup, as both sides in the religious/political conflict are equally flawed. Both sides have their doubts and mean streaks. Sure, some characters are poster-boys for religious zealotry gone horribly wrong—burning down churches with the entire village trapped inside and then think his god must be so proud because he burned the heretics—but mostly, fair and balanced. Anderson knows how to tell a story with a broad scope, and all in all, I think I might just pick up the next part in the trilogy when it’s released next year.

Kevin J. Anderson — The Edge of the World (Book one of Terra Incognita)
These foreign seas looked much the same as the waters of home, but Criston Vora knew the lands were different, the people were different, and their religion was contrary to everything he had been taught in the Aidenist kirk.

* Both religions pretty much boil down to two holy brothers being send on a sacred quest their holy father: discover the world, go forth and multiply. They’re different takes of the same myth.