Thursday, April 23, 2009

"Abaţia" (The Abbey) by Dan Doboş

“Abaţia” (The Abbey)
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
Publisher: Millennium Press
An excerpt in English can be found at the author's website

Saint Augustine defined six times of humanity, the last of those times being about to end with the Armageddon, when the armies of humans, lead by Jesus, who has come down on Earth, from the second time, will have defeated the forces of evil. After more than three thousand years from this prophecy, in circumstances slightly changed in relation to the ones predicted by the bishop of Hippo, the Abbey is the only religious entity left for the humanity. Radoslav, the Abbot who rules the Augustinian Order knows that the Armageddon is about to break out soon, but he can’t decide which will be the thing that will trigger it. It might be the humans contact with an extraterrestrial civilization; it is possible that the attempt of imperial administration of replacing the clones from the Agrarian Worlds with aliens to degenerate into a cosmic conflict; the super–soldier sent to spy the Abbey isn’t also a reason to look serenely at the future.

“Abaţia” (The Abbey), which is the first novel in the Dan Doboş’s “The Trilogy of the Abbey”, was released in 2002 by Nemira and re-published in 2008 in a revised and added edition by Millennium Press. “The Abbey” was named the best Romanian Science-Fiction novel of 2002 and the trilogy received the “Vladimir Colin Award” in 2006.

Dan Doboş creates a powerful and rich vision of the universe and an interesting outcome of the human kind. The story is told through different characters involved in the novel’s conflict and who help the reader to see this conflict from all the angles and points of view. The majority of the characters represents the two sides in conflict, the Empire and the Abbey. The Empire rules over the most of the discovered planets, but it can’t feed its inhabitants without the help of the Abbey. The Abbey, set on the devastated Earth, is the last resort of religion, a little different from the Christianity as we know it, but not totally different. And their religion is offering the only methods to create and manipulate the clones that work on the Agrarian Worlds, the planets that provide the necessary food. But the Empire is trying to eliminate the Abbey from this process in a way or another.

The author treats with much more attention the part involving the Abbey and which is understandable in the general line of the novel. I liked how Dan Doboş built the notions and the aspects involving the Abbey and the religion it follows. There are principles and symbols making it believable and adding to the realism of the story. Through this part the author raises many questions over the religion in general and he captures many philosophical themes regarding religion. The Empire is not as developed as the Abbey, but it helps bring in the story the political aspects of the new world and like the religious part it captures the philosophical themes regarding politics too. And in some places the religious and political aspects can be seen as reflection of our present world in the future.

Like I said the story is told through many characters and points of view. Unfortunately I have to say that because of this all the characters are more or less under-developed. I found two characters to be interesting, but I think that with a little more care these two would have been very interesting and I would have liked them more. One is Rimio di Vassur, a quint (a soldier trained and transformed with the help of technology to become a powerful weapon and who serves only the Emperor), and the other is Radoslav, the Abbot. Both of them have great potential, brought in face of unexpected events and with powerful inner conflicts and if treated with just a little more attention it would have made them powerful characters. Also in some places the story jumps from the perspective of a character to another without a pause or a notice and that can be confusing. But I don’t know if this is the fault of the author or of the editor and there are few such places.

“The Abbey” is an interesting novel and one that sets the premises for a captivating trilogy. And I believe that the Romanian speculative fiction needs more such talented and imaginative authors as Dan Doboş is.


kyodnb said...

Abatia is one of the best sci-fi novels published by a romanian writer ever. I could only hope that someday it will be translated into english because it deserves such a chance. And we should not forget that the Eurocon Encouragement Award this year was given, a little late it`s true, to the author of the trilogy, Dan Dobos.

Ben said...

Wait, if there's an excerpt available in English, doesn't that suggest that there are plans in the works to translate the whole work into English? Otherwise, what would be the point? Look interesting.

ediFanoB said...

Read your review with interest. Hopefully it will be translated to English in the near future. It seems this trilogy deserve it.

Mihai A. said...

Bogdan, indeed it is. And I believe that it deserves to be translated in English too and it will have success in that case. Maybe someday it will be published in English, who knows?

Ben, the author's website haven't been updated for a while now. I think that the excerpt is for a while there and it was posted by the author. Dan Dobos translated The Bromeliad novels by Terry Pratchett so he is very familiar with English :)

Michael, it definitely deserves to be published in English :)