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BRIGHT OF THE SKY by Kay Kenyon 

(Pyr, 2007, 9781591025412)

One of the best things about our monthly staff readers’ advisory training is that we force ourselves to read outside our personal comfort zones.  The second coolest thing is that we spend the major portion of that training having a staff book discussion.  As a young man, I was a science fiction reader and my genre was defined by the ABCs:  Asimov, Bradbury and Clarke.  Once in college, I shifted to crime and mystery fiction and have rarely dipped back into science fiction.  After reading this book, I am wondering why.

This month our staff selection was Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky, the first book in her new The Entire and the Rose series.  The series is projected to be a four book series. 

Kay Kenyon ( was born in
Minnesota.  She began her writing career as a television copywriter and also did some acting in television commercials.  Her first book, The Seeds of Time, was published in 1997.  Since, she has published Braided World and Maximum Ice before writing this new series.  She and her attorney husband, Tom Overcast, have three sons.  They live in
Wenatchee, Washington. 

According to Diana Tixier Herald in Strictly Science Fiction: A Guide to Reading Interests, “science fiction can be ‘hard’—probing the ramifications of scientific theories and practical applications of quantum physics, bioengineering, or mathematics.”  In Genreflecting: a Guide to Popular Reading Interests, 6th ed., Herald says “parallel earths and parallel universes are worlds that exist simultaneously with our Earth, conceived, perhaps, along a spatial fourth dimension.”  She also says, alien “’first contact’ is a situation ripe with possibilities for drama.”  I would say this book is a hard science, alien first contact, parallel world work of science fiction. 

In Bright of the Sky, two worlds exist side by side.  The Rose is our Earth where, when the book opens, we meet a very disgruntled and hermitic loner named Titus Quinn.  Quinn was the pilot of the Vesta, an interstellar transport ship lost in a Kardashev tunnel when the ship exploded.  Titus, his wife Johanna and their daughter Sydney managed to get into an escape pod.  When they awake, they found themselves in another world:  The Entire.

The Entire exists side by side to our world.  Scientists in The Entire can look through the nascence and see our world.  However, they live by three strict laws from their belief in The Radiant Way.  The three vows are withhold the knowledge of The Entire from the non-Entire;  impose the peace of The Entire;  and extend the reach of The Entire. 

All we know at the beginning of book one is that things did not go well for Titus in The Entire but he has managed to return to our universe, physically changed, his memories wiped and without his family.  Left to himself, he would prefer to sit and brood, trying to remember what happened over there.

But Earth cannot leave Titus alone.  By accident, Titus’ employer, the Minerva Company, has discovered a way to replicate Titus’ journey.  The logical person to send back to the alternate world is Titus.

When he goes, we discover (he re-discovers) the wonders that Kenyon has created on the other side of the rift.  A world based on ancient Chinese culture, scary preying mantis overlords, sentient creations to serve the people, an endless war, flying living dirigibles, a bright sky of fire and other wondrous things.

However, this is not all fun and games.  As Titus tries to complete his mission for the company (establish a way to send our ships through their airspace), his memories are slowly coming back.  This helps him try to complete his personal mission:  find his wife and daughter that he left behind. 

As I read this novel, I could not help but think that Titus is not a science fiction hero.  He is the archetypal fictional hero, one who could star in a noir crime novel or a hard-boiled western.  He is a loner, driven to that status when he is cast out from normal society.  He has extraordinary skills that make him valuable.  However, he is also damaged goods which make him both a danger to his enemies and his controllers.  The question becomes:  is he an anti-hero?

Kenyon has done a masterful job of world building.  Her setting is worth reading about.  Her characters are believable.  Her plot is intriguing.  The tone is somber and mean, and there is little that happens in this first book that is redemptive.  Conflict is constant and some of the violence is hard to look at. 

Did I understand all the science?  No.  Was that important to me?  No.  This novel is so accomplished that a reader little interested in the mechanics of the world can still enjoy the universe Kenyon has created. 

Would I read the next book in the series?  You bet!  The next book, A World Too Near (Pyr, 978-1591026426) will be published on March 25, 2008.  The future of the series is projected to be City Without End (February 2009) and Heart of Fire (December 2009).

Here are my suggested questions for a book discussion on Bright of the Sky:

How soon did you know you were reading a “hard” science fiction book?

Kenyon uses the techniques of a suspense novel to slowly reveal the back story of Titus’ first trip to The Entire.  How did that technique improve the story for you?

What qualities does Quinn share with other fictional heroes?  Can you name those he resembles?

The Rose has a BSL (Basic Standard of Living).  What does that accomplish on Earth?  How does it compare to the way the Chalin live in The Entire?  Which system is better?

Why do you think the Tarig molded The Entire around the ancient Chinese culture from Earth?  How did you keep track of all the new wonders of The Entire?

What is the value of a strong bureaucracy for governing?  What are the weaknesses?  What purpose do the Three Vows serve?

Why does this bureaucracy fight an endless war against the Paion? 

Was Anzi’s decision to save Quinn and his family the wrong choice?  Is she to blame for all that has happened in The Rose and The Entire?

How did Quinn betray his family on the first trip to The Entire?  Does he betray his family again on the second trip?

With all the chances that Quinn takes, is he fearless, reckless, driven or dumb?  How do you feel about the death of the Small Girl?

What do you think will happen in book two, three or four?



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

2 Comments on "BRIGHT OF THE SKY"

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  1.' Marshina Mitchell says:

    Absolutely love the series and can hardly wait for the new book.

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