4-Star Review for KHE, an epic fantasy by Alexes Razevich
Review by Anne Carlisle, author of the Home Schooling trilogy. Posted on Goodreads 10/28/12
The author of Khe imagines an alternative universe, invites me in, and then charms me into staying with short, powerful sentences. I'm hooked at the get-go by the point-of-view character being pursued by devouring beasts. As Khe, a self-described country bumpkin, flees toward Chimbalay, I'm wondering, Celestial City? Camelot? The Big Apple? An intrusive city-form, called the corenta, must be avoided. I'm very intrigued, but I'll have to wait a long while to know more.
Khe gets inside the gate only because others are rushing out. Why are they eager to leave Chimbalay? Once in, Khe says, she can never return. Why not? And what's so wrong with her that she has braved a dangerous journey in order to seek the help of an "orindle," an exalted female being?
I'm a bit disappointed when the forward action literally stops inside the gate and veers into a lengthy excursion into the past. However, I soon get interested in the ups and downs of Khe's agrarian life among her 52 sisters, the doumanas (females of the species. Like fireflies, their spots light up when they're ready for seasonal mating).
Shocking, dirty little secrets begin to emerge about the three types of communities. Willing or not, doumanas are "returned to their creator" each year based on the number of spots. Khe's spots have been increasing faster than her years because of an experimental procedure that enhanced her field productivity--Khe can turn things green. I'm dismayed when her talent, rather than being rewarded, is exploited. I'm drawn to Khe because she has complex emotions-- jealousy of Thedra's singing ability, for instance--while I'm turned off by the inculturated pattern of obedience to collectivism. There's also something nefarious about the males and females being kept segregated (like Catholic school). The hatchlings (babies) are fewer in number than the leader would like, but she must get permission from the Powers that be for more.
I begin to dislike intensely this autocratic, highly regimented world. It's dystopia, not utopia. I'm supposed to feel that way.
I'm still impatient to see Chimbalay, the center of power, where policy is made by a centralized group of Prophets. Will a mere individual's problems and passions be addressed there, as in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? But first, there's Khe's escape through a bestial wilderness. For me, this section has mixed results. There are gold nuggets. A sled talks to Khe, for instance; I love it that some inanimate objects are more sentient than the relentless task-masters. However, when Khe meets another runaway on the road, I feel the "babbler's" story overly delays the forward motion.
Halfway through the book, we're back at Chimbalay, where my curiosity about why orindles were rushing out is satisfied. The orindles are all going shopping at the corenta! Place names like Excitement Street underline the sly point that the prophets in glass skyscrapers are not exalted beings as advertised.
Enlightened by the history of Before and how the world came to be gender-segregated, I arrive at the story of the telepathic, energy-based Powers, a portion of the novel that seems to list toward the overly abstract and the metaphysical. The empathy quotient suffers.
Overall, what I like best in this epic fantasy is the well-crafted allegory of the individual emerging against collectivism and how Khe, like Gulliver, grows through her journey. Sometimes I'm presented with too much to think about, but I don't mind the mental exercise.
The writer has talent, and the novel, though not an easy read, is worth a look by those who enjoy excursions in alternate universes.