"The Earth, when seen from space, shows no borders."
A First Contact story that examines the path of the human race on Earth, Rejoice is a humanity-driven narrative and nails some very brutal truths about humankind at large; where humanity is heading to and what awaits us in the future without intervention. Once again, Erikson offers up a stunning philosophical discourse that is less allusory and hitting much closer to home compared to his epic fantasy masterpiece, Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Even though this is an Earth-based story, its scope is still expansive as the narrative sweeps through the Americas, Russia, China and Africa through the eyes and minds of numerous characters who react to the alien intervention in myriad ways. If you are looking for a character-driven story, however, you will have to look elsewhere. While there is one main character that appeared the most, her development as the chosen spokesperson of the ET presence (as in the formal acronym of extra-terrestrial, and not Spielberg's) is not the focal point of the story. What was fascinating was that Erikson chose a Canadian science fiction writer to be that character - highlighting the level of empathy, understanding and intelligence prevalent in a profession that is more often than not subject to derision among the literary circle.
"Yet another example of a brilliant Canadian Science Fiction writer virtually no one in this country knows about, outside of the aficionados of the genre. Never reviewed by the Globe, or the National Post. So, who is she, madam Prime Minister? Smart, opinionated, a feminist, a humanist. Frankly, I'm not surprised the ETs selected her."
How very telling, isn't it? That Erikson chose to highlight how SFF writers with their imagination can understand and empathise more with the plight of our world as humans threaten the sustainability of the planet and capitalism serves to widen the gap between social hierarchies; themes which many other current SFF writers are incorporating into their fictional narratives.
"Good writers don't blink. They don't shy away from hard truths."
If you want to know more of these hard truths, I do recommend picking up this book. I will not be able to write it better than Erikson did and as such, shall refrain to do so in this review. Do note that this not your typical thrilling science fiction adventure, it is highly philosophical and the narrative can drag at times. Nonetheless, there is a spark of humour and wit in the writing as a few notable current real-life personalities are fictionalised in this book, and to great effect.
It is because of the conviction that I share with the author around these social and economic commentaries that I enjoyed reading this original First Contact story as much as I did, notwithstanding the uneven pacing and occasional dryness of the prose.
With the death of your imagination, you lose the sense of wonder. But you need wonder. You need it to stay sane, and you need it to keep your heart from turning to stone.
This is why we read, as stories provide us with a sense of wonder and discovery, and teach us empathy. And more importantly, this is why my favourite genre is science fiction and fantasy.