Science fiction and fantasy novels often have profound philosophical and theological messages, and Sheri S. Tepper's "The Waters Rising" stays true to form in this manner. (Harper Voyager Books, 498 pages)
The earth has recovered from the "Big Kill" when machines, trained to kill nonconformists, went on a rampage slaughtering anything with a measure of intelligence and nearly destroyed all life on the planet.
The few survivors were scattered and eventually formed diverse clans and kingdoms.
But again, this ancient sinister force from the "Before Time" - the days when men were controlled by their machines - threatens to eradicate all life.
A small band of courageous warriors led by a young girl, Xulai, whose name means "Precious Hope," her companion, Abasio, and his remarkable talking horse, Blue, can save life on planet Earth which is threatened with a global deluge.
In this provocative novel, Sheri Tepper lambastes the ecological devastation wrought by men "who worshipped the ease machines" and devised means of destroying those whose thoughts did not conform with established orthodoxy. She chastises the corrupt clergy in the character of the evil Prior who betrays Xulai as well as the puritans who condemn anything that gives pleasure. There is a push for a world in which intelligent life embraces vegetarianism.
Through Xulai, the author reveals a rather liberal theological view; one that rejects a God "who fiddles with people One who saves this one while condemning a thousand others to painful death."
In her cosmology, the characters must exercise their faculties of free will and intelligence to save the world. Her heroes are not neanderthals, they embrace knowledge and technology (e.g. solar and wind power) but avoid that which threatens to control life or upset the delicate ecological balance on earth.
The novel ends with a dramatic twist on the "tail" of Evolution in the metamorphosis of the new Eve.
With thirty novels to her credit, Sheri S. Tepper deserves her place of honor in the science fiction/fantasy genre and her latest work, "The Waters Rising," stands as a thoughtful allegory for environmentalism.