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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Kevin J. Anderson's Passion For Storytelling

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I’ve always admired Kevin J. Anderson for his business acumen.  I’ve always been grateful to him for helping expand important Science Fiction universes, such as Star Wars and Frank Herbert’s Dune novels.  Meeting him at conventions and book signings has always proven a great pleasure.  Yet, while I’ve enjoyed his novels, I’ve always felt as if I had missed something crucial in his storytelling.  His novels--filled with exciting plots, richly portrayed worlds, and interesting characters—told me everything I needed to know about that particular story...and nothing about him. 

Some people say that a pastor or priest only has one sermon, and that he repeats that sermon, in infinite variation, every time he stands behind the lectern.  That sermon, and the passion and thought behind it, drove him to enter the ministry.  I suspect the same can be said of authors, as each day’s effort involves sitting down before a blank page, and imbuing it with meaning.  Writing is demanding work, and while a lucky few reside atop the bestseller charts year in and year out, most toil in obscurity, and would make far greater incomes if they devoted their energies and creativity to other pursuits.  In a career spanning a quarter-century, Kevin J. Anderson has written, co-written, or edited well over 100 books.  I wondered what ignited his passion for storytelling, and what fire still burned inside him, fueling his literary efforts.

In Resurrection, Inc., his first published novel, I found the answers I sought.  In the near future, blue collar workers are rapidly being displaced.  Servants, reanimated corpses driven by computer chips and synthetic organs, are filling all jobs involving repetitive tasks.  Francois Nathans, the head of Resurrection, Inc., conceived of reanimating the dead as way to free the living from drudgery.  Now he watches as displaced workers choke streets and welfare offices.  Where is the drive, the enthusiasm for reinvention, the fervor for forging greater futures individually and elevating mankind? 

When he decides that something else must be holding mankind back, his attention turns to religion.  And why not?  It’s been argued that, all too often, when seeking value and meaning for their lives, people choose comfortable beliefs over uncomfortable truths.  So Nathans wonders: might religion be inhibiting humanity from achieving the social progress he desires?  With the aid of Vincent Van Ryman, the son of a business partner, he forges a new religion: neo-Satanism.  He intends to create no more than an elaborate sham.  He wants converts to later see through the religion, and in so doing help them see beyond the falsehood he believes underlie all religions.  Yet people—even those he views as smart and intelligent—keep finding value and meaning in the rituals, services, and scriptures he and Vincent create.    

As usual, Kevin J. Anderson provides readers with a compelling future world, a fast-moving plot, interesting characters, and dramatic situations.  With Resurrection, Inc., he offers us a book that's difficult to put down.  But it’s the ideas behind the story, and the questions they raise, that I'll take away from this novel.  For example: What is the proper role of Faith and Belief?  Is Truth something that exists outside us, that we either accept or reject?  Or is Truth something we create for ourselves, and sometimes even knowingly construct from the most outrageous lies.  For some of the biggest, and perhaps the most compelling lies of all, are not Religions, but Fictions.  Some stories and characters grow so important to us that they become a part of us, and guide us through life in crucial ways. 

In Resurrection, Inc., Francois Nathans learns that what drives others, and what they perceive as truth, is at odds with the passion that drove him to create his company, and fueled his efforts to elevate mankind.  I wonder: in his first published novel, did Kevin J. Anderson share a part of his soul?  Did he hint at the passion that caused him to start writing stories, and still fuels his creative engine?  The novel suggests not only why he writes his stories, but perhaps also why I keep on reading him.  It suggests the reason he’s become one of my favorite authors.  For there must be a greater, better, and more elevated reason than that I simply like the guy.  

At least, that's what I believe.

Dragon Dave 

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