The Search for Fierra

Cover of The Search for Fierra by Stephen Lawhead. Art by Richard Chetland.
Art by Richard Chetland. Click through to read a preview on Amazon!

Title: The Search for Fierra

Author: Stephen Lawhead

Nutshell: From the time of 1980s science fiction, where worldbuilding was a new and fascinating thing (thereby leading to long sections of prose devoted to cataloguing it wholesale) and all sci-fi sounded vaguely like Star Trek, comes The Search for Fierra, a typical space dystopia from a time when space dystopia was atypical.

Meet Orion Treet, a man who thinks of himself only by his last name, despite never using anyone else’s last name ever. He’s just been shanghied onto an interplanetary voyage intended to reestablish contact with a colony that lost contact. He is not, of course, wondering what a small-time historian is doing on a colonial mission. He’s too busy being distracted by:

Yarden Talazac, the ultimate male portrayal of the incomprehensible female mind. She is an empath, which mostly means she can read Treet’s mind and maybe fly spaceships through wormholes? This empathic bond means she has very strong opinions about Treet’s actions. Which makes her the love interest because she challenges him, I guess.

Also meet Pizzle, the most unfortunately named nerd in the Galaxy. They (and Crocker) will bravely attempt to contact the lost colony (It’s been lost for about a month, fyi) and discover how it has flourished. Alas, due to something called “wormhole physics”, the team finds themselves 3000 years in the future, where the very, very well established colony has divided into today’s slight-less-unsubtle-than-usual dystopia with symbolic underpinnings.

Watch them plod through the drudgery of life in Dome, the caste-segregated, communistic, nanny-state with literal mind control, until they finally meet up and escape to Fierra, a perfect paradise. Peruse pages in which they ask none of the questions the reader is asking, like, “Why do the Dome dwellers wear breathers with stored air when the air on this planet is perfectly breathable?” “Why don’t even the rulers of Dome go into their Archives containing the knowledge of centuries?” and “Why is Pizzle even in this book?” Also peruse pages in which they ask the questions the reader is asking and then immediately provide glib answers, leaving the question open for the reader but that’s probably all the explanation they’ll give you.

Yes, experience this forerunner to the dystopia genre, if only so that you can say that you have. Mystery-Science-Theatre-3000 your way through it if you’d like. Auto-Schaudenfruede is still a form of enjoyment.

Readalikes: Most of the dustier dystopias. Try The Giver, Farehnheit 451, or 1984. But this also has similarity to Star Trek and other divergent-colony novels such as the Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffery. Aspects of it remind me of Ted Dekker’s Red Black White Green cycle, but it’s hard to be sure.Read More »