Paul Park's world of Celestis is not as dark and brooding as that of Paradise in his Sugar Rain books, but the story is even more disturbing. Humans have subjugated the planet's native aboriginals in those ways that humans often do. On the surface, all is calm and civilized: aboriginals appear happy with the lifestyle change, the cultural opportunities now available, and a victory over another native race that had enslaved them for centuries. But the calm is only a veneer that hides the decay and anger beneath, a short-term peace. |
Park details the worms of decay through his description of Katherine, the daughter of a wealthy, Westernized native merchant. Katherine is a devout Catholic and takes drugs and undergoes periodic plastic surgery to make her more human; with her transplanted knucklebones, she can even play Beethoven on her concert piano. Katherine and Simon, a young diplomat assigned to Celestis, are thrown together when they're kidnapped during an uprising. Simon falls in love with her, but Katherine, cut off from the medication she needs to keep her humanlike, begins to revert to her natural--though to her quite unnatural--alien state.
A tangled predicament of violence, transformation, and loss, Celestis delivers an eerie view of history, psychology, and the perception of others.
Paul Park has written an extraordinary, challenging, and disturbing novel about a human colony on a distant alien world, the planet Celestis. The native humanoid population is subjugated by the human colonists, but many of the Aboriginals undergo medical procedures involving surgery and drugs to make them look and think more like humans. As support from home wanes, the "improved" Aboriginals launch a rebellion against the colonists. Simon, a political functionary from Earth, and Katherine, the altered daughter of a successful native merchant, are taken hostage by the rebels. Simon falls in love with Katherine, but, cut off from a supply of the medication she needs to maintain her humanlike state, her suppressed alien nature begins to reemerge. As she discovers her true self, hidden vistas of expanded alien perception are revealed in a stunning exploration of the limits of humanity.