The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass has already been compared by some to Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass and Robert Anton Wilson’s Iluminatus! trilogy. This is due to, in the first example, a dichotomy between “Evil” and “Good,” (though the lines are very fuzzy in each case) and between “Science” and “Religion.” In the example of the Wilson books, the congruous element is an all-encompassing conspiracy in which the fate of humanity is determined by forces beyond our control.
As in the Pullman “His Dark Materials” trilogy, the traditional ideas about what is “Good” and “Evil” are turned upside down. Logic and science, as represented by the head of Lumina Enterprises, the mega-wealthy Mr. Kenntnis (from the German word for “knowledge”) is battling for the benefit of mankind against the forces of religion and magic, as represented by the head of the Worldwide Christian Alliance, Reverend Grenier.
Kenntnis has on his side the god, or “Old One” Cross; the human hero of the book, bisexual cop Richard Oort - who is totally devoid of magic (referred to as an “Empty One”); the physicist/sorceress Rhiana Davinovitch, who is half-human, half-Old One; and a few people Richard recruits - coroner Angela Armandariz and fellow cop Lieutenant Damon Weber. Grenier has his own “Empty One,” the criminal Doug Andresson; his bodyguards/thugs Bruce and Willie; Rhiana, when she switches sides; Rhiana’s father, the Old One named Madoc; and a host of inter-dimensional Old Ones and monsters are at his disposal.
The Edge of Reason will make a good series of books. There are lots of loose ends left that should whet the appetite for future books featuring these fascinating characters. I generally hate it when a book is compared to other famous books, because it doesn’t do a newer book justice and each book should be considered on its own merits or faults. It does give the reader a sort of point of reference, however, that can be useful in deciding to read a book that might be similar in some way to one you’ve read in the past.
Richard Oort, though he’s a policeman, is an unlikely hero in different ways. He’s fairly short for a man (5'4"), he is bisexual, lacks magical skill, and was the victim of a brutal sexual assault by a business associate of his father’s. Yet as one reads on, it becomes clear that he’s a good choice for the role - because of his unassuming nature, his desire to help out anybody as all good cops should have, and his grit and determination to succeed in the face of a sinister adversary. Kenntnis chooses Oort because he is one of the few people born in any generation who lack even an iota of magic, who can wield a sword that kills magical creatures and eliminate magic in other humans.
The premise of this book, as with Pullman’s books, is that religion and magic are both evil and detrimental to humans, result in division, wars, hatred, and chaos, and that science and logic are good, helping to bring light and order to the universe and mankind. While I personally don’t agree with this premise, I am interested in books that explore this dichotomy. Whether I agree or don’t with a book’s arguments isn’t what determines if I like a book or not. That depends on many factors, like how well the book is written, how it’s structured, how well the characters are drawn out, etc., etc., etc.
The Edge of Reason pits the concepts of “Good” and “Evil” against each other, forcing you to rethink any pre-conceived notions you may have regarding religion and science, and it’s captivating from the beginning to its conclusion. While I more often than not like a book to tie up any loose ends by the end, in the case of a book within a series of books, loose ends are pretty much necessary to intrigue someone enough to read the other books in the series, so that doesn’t bother me. I recommend this to anyone who likes science fiction that crosses over into fantasy, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Melinda Snodgrass in the future.