Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart – Steven Erikson

Hello Humans! Welcome and welcome once again to my stop on the Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart (which I’m going to refer to as Rejoice throughout this review) blog tour. I urge you to go out and check out all of the wonderful posts in this blog tour (after you’ve read this one of course). Rejoice is a science fiction novel that explores the idea of first contact, and how humanity might interact with extraterrestrial life (and vice versa). I wasn’t sure what to expect going in but ended up feeling thoroughly challenged and intrigued.

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Goodreads Summary:

Rejoice, A Knife to the Heart tells the story of the Intervention, which begins when Samantha August, science fiction writer, disappears into a beam of light, apparently from a UFO, while walking along a busy street in Victoria, Canada. While footage of the incident – captured on smartphones – goes viral, Samantha wakes up in a small room, where she is greeted by the voice of Adam, who explains that they are in orbit and he is AI communicant of the Intervention Delegation, a triumvirate of alien civilisations seeking to ensure the continuing evolution of Earth as a viable biome. Thus begins an astonishing, provocative, beautifully written and startlingly visionary novel of First Contact.

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I think that the thing most people will take away from this book is how complicated and dense the prose can be. I read this book while in the car on the way up to an exhibition in London where I had no available distractions. I think if I had been at home or in front of a computer or similar I would have found it more difficult to get through. There is a lot of detail that, depending on your personal preference, could feel a little bit extraneous. The way I tend to read books like this is that I start to filter out a lot of the smaller details and to zero in on key passages of dialogue or plot within the prose. If I were a more pretentious person I’d liken it to finding David in the marble or something similar. What it boils down to is that this book has a truly fascinating plot and a premise, and it’s up to the reader to decide whether they enjoy the level of detail and description that Erikson packs into his work.

Part of the reason this book feels so dense is that it was a huge undertaking to try and write it. Rather than focus in on one or two characters and their actions following the intervention, Erikson instead decided to tell a story that encompasses the actions and consequences of pretty much the whole globe. Not only are you dealing with a huge number of individuals but also the actions of whole countries, whole governments and economic bodies and so forth. It reminded me a little of when I read World War Z a few years ago, the idea of taking what would normally be the story of one person and instead of telling the stories of many.

With that setup, the book then poses a lot of interesting questions. I think the overarching idea is ‘does humanity deserve to be saved from themselves?’ But you could also argue ‘is it right to save humanity from themselves?’ or similar. I’ve dated a couple of philosophy students in the past who would have eaten this book up. At times I got a little bogged down in the ethics questions and the religious elements (which are obviously important to discuss in the context of the story but weren’t really my jam) but this is certainly a book that could start conversations.

I will say that the characters, while there are many of them, don’t have very distinctive voices. The science fiction author Samantha August was certainly my favourite character, but I think that’s because she was the only one who really distinguished herself from the others, it helped that her plotline was also the most distinctive I suppose. So this is far more of a plot-driven book than a character-driven one, which I don’t have a problem with, it just means adjusting how I normally read things. It is, I suppose, fitting that the book is plot-driven as it ties in with the idea of intervention, of things happening beyond the characters’ control.

I dithered a bit on how to rate this book. At the very start I wasn’t convinced that I would enjoy it, but by the end, once I was acclimated to Erikson’s writing style, I actually found that I had thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. I like a story that challenges me and I like it when authors approach a classic concept (such as first contact) from a new or distinct angle.

This isn’t going to be a book that everyone will love, but I think that there will be those for whom this book is perfect. It packs a poignant punch.

My rating: 4/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

What say you? Will you be reading Rejoice? Let me know in the comments below!



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