willem of the tafel
han hirschi’s latest is a book with ideas it wants to impart
Han Hirschi’s latest is a book with ideas it wants to impart, and a narrative style that is impatient to unfold them.
A hidden cadre of survivors lives within a cave system called “The Tafel”, where they have survived four centuries since environmental collapse and nuclear war rendered the surface of the earth theoretically uninhabitable. Under demographic pressure from a collapsing gene pool, and riven by lingering prejudices, their small world is teetering on the brink of destruction. Against this background, those prejudices flare & young Willem is blamed for an accident and exiled to the surface as the opening gambit of an intertribal purge. Abandoned to certain death, Willem finds an adventure through a changed world and a chance for redemption for himself and his culture.
Hirschi’s world building suggests a kind of postmodern Canticle for Leibowitz, albeit with a sunnier ending. His ideas are interesting and his vision of the recovering world has many intriguing characteristics. Big themes are on display here: prejudice, climate change, the acceptance of alternative sexualities, nuclear war, fear of the unknown, post-apocalyptic renewal. Sadly the connective tissue of his prose & his characterizations are not able to fully embrace his big ideas – his writing seems impatient to move from one concept to the next. One has the feeling that one is reading the outline for a much longer book or even series that will flesh out the characters and the events.
Still if you are comfortable with the uneven prose style, the ideas and the imagined societies are an intriguing mix of dystopias and utopias. Also, the shift away from the Eurocentric futures that tend to dominate SF is refreshing.
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