REVIEW: Lights in the Deep by Brad R. Torgersen

Friday , 13, March 2015 4 Comments

AsZCoSxBRiI can count on one hand the number of times that I’ve read a novel in one sitting, and I can’t ever recall reading a short story collection without stopping along the way.  There’s too many natural breaks for me to keep turning the pages.  But Brad R. Torgersen’s Lights In The Deep captured my attention and held it — at first with his carefully drawn (and very human) characters, and from story to story by the positive emotional uplift and general hope for humanity.

The stories are what you might call part of the superversive movement – all  variations on the same theme:  normal people in impossible situations who refuse to give up.

In socio-sexual terms, the characters are deltas, the “everymen” of the world who simply do their small part in a greater cause, who hope in the midst of their trials, and model a certain kind of heroism in the process–one that can have profound effects.

In “The Chaplain’s Assistant”, an agnostic cleric in an alien occupied warzone makes a plea for peace and changes the course of history. In “Ray of Light” (2012 Hugo & Nebula nominee), humanity find themselves on the bottom of the ocean after the sun goes out, but a teenager longs to see the surface.  In “Outbound” (2011 Analog Readers Choice Award winner), a paraplegic comes of age on a space station after most of humanity is wiped out in war.  Overall, a great collection with enough credible science, interesting ideas, and sense of wonder to remind one of the golden age of Sci-Fi.

Torgensen has an essay in the collection where he lays out what he believes to be the answer to the decline in science fiction:

In order for Science Fiction to have value and meaning— to say nothing of an audience— I think it could stand to go back to the “mythic” tropes more than it has of late. Re-explore some of the more classic, more time-honored themes. Re-elevate the human to a place of dignity and power. Re-embrace themes that are hopeful, optimistic, perhaps even spiritual in nature.

I think he’s on to something.

RATING: 8/10

4 Comments
  • Daniel says:

    Some people say that progress is more interesting but timeless things endure precisely because they never show progress.

    Those addicted to progress are merely attempting to fabricate a less bitter reality.

    When they do that they become the thing of nightmares.

    Supervert it.

    • Scooter says:

      Man can also err the other way by resisting progress, making a prison of our traditions, and becoming — in Tolkien’s terminology — an “embalmer”, like the Elves and Numenoreans, who wished to “stop [Middle Earth’s] change and history, stop its growth”.

      It is the opposite error of the ‘reformer’ who reforms via tyranny and an exercise of coercive power…should we desire to make “[our] particular will to preservation effective: to arrest change, and keep things always fresh and fair.”

      Liberals and others co-opt the language of the Christian and Jewish messianic hope for justice on the earth — by trying to immunize the eschaton via empire and the powers of the Beast.

      For a Christian, the messianic hope is the hope for progress; one that requires the demolition of the old. “Remember not the former things nor consider the things of old. For behold, I purpose to do a new thing.” Isaiah 43:18.

  • CL says:

    Having read “Lights in the Deep” I reached the opposite conclusion as Scooter’s review.

    Each short story is Political Correctness taken to the extreme. Scooter’s review touches on this indirectly, i.e. paraplegic boy is the protagonist, but fails to mention he’s Polish, but adopted by a black couple.

    NOTE: minor spoilers follow.

    Later you have an alternate history where the first astronaut is black and the copilot is a Jewish woman.

    Another story has female marines, a female president and a female commander of the marine company; all in charge of the “tough guy”.

    Even the cleric Scooter mentioned won’t tell the aliens about the True God, but hem haws around the subject, even after the alien asks about the cleric’s God repeatedly.

    Still, with my dislike of the PC narrative, I could have enjoyed the stories if they had a “point” or a twist or something to make me sit back and ponder. Instead, the stories just end. No “wow” moments, no surprises.

    My review is simple. Torgersen writes very well. If PC excites you, then you’ll love these stories.

    • Scooter says:

      That there wasn’t a “point” indicates that the stories aren’t SJW message-fic where politics get in the way of the story.

      Also, there is at least one example off the top of my head that is politically incorrect in its thinking: the characters in “Exiles of Eden” violate the Trekian prime directive and resolve to educate the dumb natives. The Chinese are the bad guys in one of the stories as well.

      However, I’d agree with you on the alt-history story “Gemini 17”; it was the weakest of the bunch plot-wise and didn’t have any interesting ideas.

      In “Chaplain’s Assistant”, the cleric isn’t a cleric, he’s an assistant. He hem haws around the subject because he isn’t a believer, not because “all religions are one” and he wants to be the leader of a multireligious congregation. Part of the frustration the reader (and the character) feels is that he can’t articulate anything to the alien; that’s left for others. All he can do is provide a space for others who do believe. If it was a SJW story, the assistant would have been a Christian believer and the alien would have shown him the foolishness of believing that there could be one truth.

      The black woman in “Outbound” would be more likely offend SJW sensibilities as she fits in the magical negro trope (complete with Southern accent).

      And to be fair, the female marine wasn’t 100 pounds and beating up men three times her size: she was a cybernaut, piloting a proxy.

      I would classify Lights in the Deep as purple sci-fi.

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