Monday, October 25, 2010

Deviations Covenant - Review


Pause a moment and savor the poetic eloquence of these words:

Woody decay wafted up to her nostrils.
She listened to termites munching the fallen trunk,
a beetle scrabbling in the crevices.
Seen from the corner of her eye,
it raced across brittle bark and vanished.
Leaves fluttered as the breeze picked up,
sounding like a gentle rain.

Now consider them again, the way the author intended for you to view them:

“Woody decay wafted up to her nostrils. She listened to termites munching the fallen trunk, a beetle scrabbling in the crevices. Seen from the corner of her eye, it raced across brittle bark and vanished. Leaves fluttered as the breeze picked up, sounding like a gentle rain.”

The first passage is my own vision of the work.  The second, that of its creator, Author Elissa Malcohn, is lifted from the author’s book, Deviations: Covenant, Book I, which according to the author, was really only intended to be a short story written in 1985 after reading Joseph Payne Brennan's 15-line poem "When Tigers Pass."  Twenty years later this expanded version, initially conceived as part one of a trilogy, has evolved into four books with a fifth due late 2010 and the final volume due in mid-2011.


This book introduces you to the world and customs of two proto-humanoid sentient races of what could very well be post apocalyptic earth a long, long time into the future.  Tall, strong, and fur pelted are the Masari.  Smaller, weaker, fur-less are the Yata.  Each is bound to the other by custom, culture and conscience to the Covenant.  The Yata depend on the food offerings of the Masari to live.  The Masari, who view the Yata with almost god-like reverence require the meat of the Yata to survive.  It is a delicate balance generations old.
And there are members of both societies who not only believe that it is time for this mutually accepted dependence to end, but are just as willing to fight or die to see it happen.
What follows is a carefully crafted story, often filled with passages like the one above, that read with poetic eloquence, even when describing the ritual execution of a Yata, or the orgiastic couplings resulting from the manufactured Destiny powder necessary somehow to both.
Without sensationalized graphic violence or the glamorized pornography of pulp romance novels, Ms. Malcohn achieves what good science fiction/fantasy is intended to do.  She has created a believable world, with characters with whom you can empathize, in a good story that is well and eloquently told. This is adult fiction without being ‘adult’ fiction.  It’s not Star Wars, but neither is it Lady Chatterly’s Lover.
Now here is the interesting part.  Ms. Malcohn has chosen to release all of the books of the Deviations series in e-book format for FREE at her website.  Multiple e-book formats are available.  I read Covenant on my Sony 300 pocket reader.  If you don’t have a pocket reader, the author’s website also has links to sites where you can get free copies of computer and smart-phone software in all of the popular formats.  You are encouraged to make a donation using PayPal to help support and encourage as well as respect the author and her work.
Deviations: Covenant, ©2007 by Elissa Malcohn (ISBN-13: 978-0-9819764-0-2) is available at the Author’s website, and in trade paperback (ISBN-13: 978-1934677179) at  Amazon.com.
I find myself in complete agreement with the author’s disclaimer: “The Deviations series contains mature themes and situations.  It has been called both science fiction and dark fantasy, but it is not young adult fantasy.  Please download and share responsibly. 
All other rights reserved.”
That said, I give Deviations: Covenant five stars out of five.  An excellent idea and story captivatingly well told.
As a brief aside, Ms. Malcohn will be appearing, speaking and signing books with this writer and others at the Hudson Holiday Authors Fair at Brentwood Estates Clubhouse, Brentwood Estates, 15025 Savannah Avenue, Hudson, FL  34667 on Saturday, December 11th , 2010 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.  Brentwood Estates is located on New York Avenue and Hicks Road (about 1/2 mile east of Little Road) and admission to the event is free.
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