Unto Zeor, Forever!

by Jacqueline Lichtenberg


Genre: Science Fiction
Original Publication Date: 1978
Reviewed: March 2004

        If you haven't read anything in the Sime~Gen universe before, I recommend starting with House of Zeor. This book, longer and more complex, and told from a Sime point of view, is a bit harder to get into. It's even more rewarding - probably the best of the Sime~Gen books - but it definitely helps if you have some background in this amazing, addictive universe first.

        Unto Zeor, Forever! is set several generations after House of Zeor. Digen Farris, Sectuib in Zeor by accident, descendent of Klyd Farris, is trying to become the world's first Sime surgeon (surgery being a Gen profession). Then he meets Ilyana Dumas, a descendent of Hugh Valleroy, and begins to question everything he's dedicated his life to.

        This is one of my favorite books. It's an intense, gripping, utterly immersive experience. You're kind of surprised you don't have tentacles when you put the book down. I'd been waiting for the sequel to House of Zeor for what seemed like forever. Finally, while on a trip into the city for a Math League meet, I found the paperback edition of Unto Zeor, Forever! I literally could not put it down. I was graduating from high school at the time, my house was full of relatives who had come to see me, and I was ignoring them all to read this book. My parents were not pleased. (I definitely don't recommend starting this book if you're expecting company.) Anyway, I still find it every bit as compelling now, two decades later.

        As with House of Zeor, angst, intense relationships, and male bonding should make this book appealing to anyone who like Trek Classic or C.J. Cherryh. The book is currently out of print, but is readily available for very low prices at Amazon.com and many used book stores.

        As for the other books in this series...they are entertaining enough, but I haven't found any of the others as appealing as the first two. Some of them are set in the past - prequels - and that takes away a lot of the suspense, since you know how things are going to turn out. Lichtenberg also has a habit of writing sequels in which the characters are not nearly as appealing as they were when you first met them. We meet Hugh and Klyd again in Zelerod's Doom, and they're kind of dweebs, not the characters we got to love in House of Zeor. The Digen and Im'ran we see twenty years later in Mahogany Trinrose are not the charismatic characters displayed for us in Unto Zeor, Forever! The Rimon and Kadi in Channel's Destiny aren't ideal lovers we knew in First Channel. I'm not entirely opposed to this; it can be a nice edge of realism. But geez, doesn't anybody get better with age in this universe?

        Unto Zeor, Forever cover However, I think the bigger turnoff, for me, is the increasing religious/metaphysical element. Admittedly, I'm an atheist by natural inclination as well as upbringing, and that might have something to do with it. But generally, I don't have a problem with religion in a fictional setting. Indeed, a well-done religion can add a lot of realism to a book, and that, to me, is a good thing. No, I think my problem with the new-agey elements in the later Sime-Gen books is that they totally undermine the things that most appealed to me.

        The metaphysical elements make it clear that humans are special and different in this universe, and there's some kind of divine intelligence behind the Sime~Gen mutation. It's found only at the "pinnacle of evolution." Grrr. That's a pet peeve of mine; humans are not the pinnacle of evolution. Indeed, there's genetic evidence that chimpanzees and gorillas are "more evolved" than we are - that is, more changed from our common ancestor. Worse, it takes all the drama out of it, since if the Sime~Gen mutation is the creation of a benevolent god, you know that it's all going to turn out okay in the end.

           Okay, so we know it's going to work out long run. That still leaves the intimate, personal dramas, right? Wrong. In the Sime~Gen universe, reincarnation exists. People come back, again and again, to work out their issues and relationships across the millennia, and pay back the karmic debts incurred in previous lives. That being the case, it's hard to really care, since no matter what happens, you know they'll get a chance to make it right later. There are never any real consequences, at least not permanent ones.

        Tanith Lee seems to have similar beliefs, and readers often complain about the distancing effect this has. But it doesn't bother me with Lee. Her writing is distant, anyway. Lichtenberg, on the other hand...her strengths as a writer are immediacy and intensity. And the metaphysical element completely eviscerates that, for me anyway.

        Or maybe it's just that the first two books had the best male bonding... ;-)

Related Links:

The Official Sime~Gen Web Site - Cluttered and hard to navigate, but perservere, and there's fanfic, mailing lists, news of upcoming books, and other cool stuff.

The Secret Pens - The unofficial fan site, where the good stuff is ;-)