“Rapture” by Alex Wu

Well, this story certainly takes us on a ride. It starts like a standard political action tale, but gets more and more science-fictiony as the plot progresses. It’s a novel-length rewrite of the old Damon Knight short story (and Twilight Zone episode) “To Serve Man,” the punch line of which, as everyone knows, is “It’s a cookbook.” This author deals with both the plotline and the thematic material at considerable length. Also in more gruesome detail, although with taste.
The plot revolves around a main character who is forced to make a series of difficult choices. At every turn, whatever she does, it seems she has to cause hurt to someone innocent, and as the complexity of the intrigue develops, the clear moral path becomes less and less clear.
The main strength of the writing is in the character development. Reiko is a likeable, sympathetic heroine, and there are many supporting characters that are sympathetic in their own right, even though some are on the opposite side in the conflict.
Adding to the interest is the thematic material. How far would you be willing to go to protect someone close to you, if it meant sacrificing others? How much collateral damage is too much? And, at the far end of the spectrum, is terrorism acceptable if its objectives are altruistic? Meanwhile, we see the flip side of the question. If everyone is torn by doubts, then which of them can you trust? As the story develops and the tension builds, it begins to look like the answer is “No one.” You’ll have to read the book to get any more than that.
The only thing that detracts from the power of this story is the author’s tendency to wander into discussion of this philosophy, which unfortunately increases as the story goes on. What we specifically do not want in an emotional and moving ending is a cutaway to the author’s analysis of every character, what each one’s life meant and how it relates to the theme. If we haven’t figured it out by that point, it’s too late to read us another lesson on the subject.
A thoroughly enjoyable Sci-Fi action story with a touch too much thematic discussion.
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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