This YA science fiction novel was given to me as a gift by a visiting friend who wanted me to have a look and report back. So I did, and now I will.

This is a novel of ideas featuring an earnest young man whose commitment to The Truth leads him to reject the universal religion of his people. At first I was wary that this might be a Fisher-Price My First Objectivism Lecture (tm), but luckily the author is up to something a bit more sophisticated (but then, how could she not be?) As it turns out, what this book is really about is the difference between exoteric and esoteric religion. The protagonist observes that the people around him mindlessly accept certain nonsensical beliefs (what William Golding called third-class thinking) and responds by devoting himself to attacking those beliefs (what Golding called second-class thinking. First-class thinking involved creating new ideas. Orson Scott Card once referred to these groups as sheep, wolves and shepherds, respectively.) Eventually..., spoilers here, I guess...

...eventually, he learns that the beliefs he has rejected are in fact not true in the sense that most believers conceive of them, but are figurations of a deeper truth that the laity aren't capable of grasping. Moreover, rather than pushing the religion on him as the believers in the exoteric variant do, the keepers of the esoteric knowledge attempt to dissuade him from pursuing it, subjecting him to test after test to make sure that he's really serious, and pretty much act out the list of traits that goes up on the board when the exoteric/esoteric distinction is introduced in your typical freshman comparative religion course. This probably makes it sound like I'm trashing the book — but I'm not. This book is for kids and young adolescents. These are heady ideas for that age group, and ideas that far too few people are exposed to at any age. So while it ain't great littachur, it's entertaining enough and has probably done more good than harm.

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