Long before many of the dystopian books that are so popular these days were written, Sylvia Engdahl wrote a very compelling young adult science fiction trilogy. The first volume was called This Star Shall Abide, and I read it last week. It’s a book that has been on my TBR shelf for a long time and I’m so glad I finally got to it! It was a read I couldn’t put down, and I was very impressed with the ideas that were the basis of the story. The idea of “truth”, for example, and how important it is to be true to oneself. Such a timely concept! It’s what I used to call a “thinker book” when I was teaching. Books that were full of very human dilemmas and problems to be solved, and books that make for very thoughtful discussions. Those are the kind of science fiction books I really like.
Synopsis of the story from the author’s web site:
Noren knew that his world was not as it should be–it was wrong that only the Scholars, and their representatives the Technicians, could use metal tools and Machines. It was wrong that only they had access to the mysterious City, which he had always longed to enter. Above all, it was wrong for the Scholars to have sole power over the distribution of knowledge. The High Law imposed these restrictions and many others, though the Prophecy promised that someday knowledge and Machines would be available to everyone. Noren was a heretic. He defied the High Law and had no faith in the Prophecy’s fulfillment. But the more he learned of the grim truth about his people’s deprivations, the less possible it seemed that their world could ever be changed. It would take more drastic steps than anyone imagined to restore their rightful heritage.
From The School Library Journal in 1972:
“Superior future fiction concerning the fate of an idealistic misfit, Noren, who rebels against his highly repressive society…. Although there is little overt action, the attention of mature sci-fi readers will be held by the skillful writing and excellent plot and character development.” It received the Christopher Award in 1973, for its “affirmation of the highest values of the human spirit.”
Some interesting quotes from the book:
…“Wherever he went he would be a stranger, for there was no home in the world for such as he.”
…“But as long as he kept on caring, nothing could touch the freedom of his inner thoughts.”
…”Knowledge was what he’d longed for, and he could not believe that the process of absorbing it would be anything but a joy.”
About the Author:
Sylvia Engdahl is an Oregon author, which is another reason I like reading her books. A few years ago, I read her book, Enchantress from the Stars, and loved it. That book received a Newbery Honor Award in 1971. You can read more about her and her books at her web site. http://sylviaengdahl.com
I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.