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The Software Soul

| 12.8.06
'The Software Soul', by Brian Plante

This was another great short story by Brian Plante, this time dealing with an issue I've been thinking about for awhile --virtual churches.

I've moved around geographically quite a bit during the last ten years, and I've switched churches even more often than I've moved. When I think about what kinds of spiritual communities have truly nurtured my religious quest over the years, on-line communities outnumber bricks and mortar by almost two-to-one.

Wouldn't it be great to be able to actually attend worship on-line? To have some sort of immersive three dimensional virtual reality experience? It would be so convenient, allowing one to transcend purely geographic boundaries. It would allow truly niche church 'markets' to emerge, catering to every whim.

Plante's short story isn't about that, however. He explores the implications of a virtual church left running after all the flesh and blood parishioners have abandoned it. He tells the story from the perspective of a software priest who continues to perform Mass even as he is unaware of events taking place in the outside world. One day attendance starts picking up unexpectedly, including some out-of-this-world visitors.

I won't spoil the ending. Another great short story by Brian Plante!

PUBLISHER: Analog Science Fiction and Fact (Astounding); Dell Publishers; ISSN: 10592113 (July/August, 2006)
SEE ALSO: 'Dibs', 'In the Loop', and 'Lavender In Love'

Rachel and Leah

| 5.8.06
Rachel and Leah: Women of Genesis, by Orson Scott Card

This third installment of Orson Scott Card's "Women of Genesis" series was noteworthy because it casts Leah, --the daughter of Laban notorious for tricking Jacob into marrying her-- in a sympathetic light. At the end of this novel I was left feeling wistful about Leah's predicament, and felt that Jacob definitely chose the wrong daughter to fall in love with. Card writes an interesting story without contradicting the Bible's version of Jacob and Leah and Rachel (although certainly embellishing it, providing additional motivations and a look inside the heads of the characters that we don't get in the biblical account.)

I didn't enjoy this installment as much as I did Sarah or Rebekah. The pacing in Rachel and Leah seemed to be a bit off compared to the earlier two books. Maybe it was the way Card tried to tell four stories at once. Although Zilpah and Bilhah are both in the biblical account, the story gets stretched too thin when Card tries to cover all four story lines, and the two servant girls really don't contribute too much to the conclusion --certainly not enough to justify the number of pages devoted to them. I think if Card would have cut much of this material and focused on the two sisters, Jacob, and Laban the novel might have felt "tighter" and the final result more satisfying.

That aside, I have enjoyed this series and would recommend it. However, the first two books were more enjoyable than the latest.

PUBLISHER: Forge Press, 2005. ISBN: 0-765-34129-8.

See also: Sarah and Rebekah, by Orson Scott Card.

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