To Die in Italbar by Roger Zelazny

To Die in Italbar by Roger Zelazny is a 174-page science fiction novel originally published by Doubleday & Company in January of 1973. The book is actually the second in the Francis Sandow series–I guess I’ll have to read the rest of the series now! The book can stand alone, though, as it’s not *technically* a sequel. I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing any information about characters, plot, or setting. I read To Die in Italbar as a part of Vintage SciFi Month.

To Die in ItalbarThe story revolves around the journeys of a mysterious man called “H” who has a unique power that allows him to heal even the most terminal of illnesses. Another important point of view is that of Malacar Miles, a military man who is determined to find H to use the horrifying flipside of his healing power–the ability to spread diseases that H has contracted–in order to strike at Malacar’s old enemies. There is one female POV of note–a girl who works in a brothel but secretly idolizes the military prowess of Malacar and wishes to meet and help him take revenge on their mutual enemies. I loved her raw anger, but I can’t remember her name.

The story switches back and forth between points of view so often with no indication of who is the current POV that I was continuously just trying to figure out whose story I was reading. This is in part because four of the main characters are all relatively similar male points of view. What kept me going was the overarching plot and divine nature of H’s gift and the fact that he waivered back and forth between periods of healing and periods of diseasing people near him.

I also really enjoyed Malacar’s plotline. There was a deep political background to the novel through Malacar’s history of war with a planetary alliance that overtaxed and refused to accept his planet as a part of that alliance. His story grounded the otherwise fantasy-like tale of H. Malacar also had a friend of an alien race named Shind that had telepathic powers and was just truly fascinating. I would have been happy to read an entire book about Shind, who helped to give Malacar a little emotional depth.

The resolution of the novel tied up all the loose ends that I didn’t think Zelazny would even bother with. It was a bit surprising but completely satisfying. The cameo by Francis Sandow intrigued me enough to want to read Isle of the Dead (Francis Sandow #1). Sandow is a planet builder, and his story reminded me a bit of the Magratheans from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which is one of my favorite space-faring series.

To Die In Italbar was a quick read, although I originally only read 10 pages before putting it down. Vintage SciFi Month encouraged me to reread those pages and finish the book. I’m glad I did, because it was seriously intriguing! This was the first book I’ve read by Zelazny, and I’ll definitely be picking up more books by him. I’d recommend this novel to fans of sci-fi and fantasy that has military and religious overtones.

TITLE: To Die in Italbar
AUTHORRoger Zelazny
PAGES: 174
ALSO WROTE: Chronicles of Amber, Lord of Light
FIRST LINE: On the night he had chosen months before, Malacar Miles crossed the street numbered seven, passing beneath the glow-globe he had damaged during the day.




Found: Religious Advice

bomMy town has a Little Free Library, and I try to drop books off there at least once a month. I occasionally glance through the library to see if there are any new goodies. For example, my most recent perusal revealed some romance books, a few dictionaries, some Dean Koontz novels, a couple old Westerns, and a copy of The Book of Mormon with a note penned onto the inside of the front cover. I’m not religious, so I definitely appreciate that whoever wrote this note took to penning it in a book rather than knocking at my door!


The note reads:

Blessings to you
Dear Ones who choose to “read with the wonder and faith of a child ❤
Pray to your Father in Heaven who waits for you to ask if these things are true. If you ask with a sincere heart, having faith in Christ, and real intent… He will warm your heart and bring peace and happiness through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Through this process, you will know the truth of all things.

Left to Tell by Immaculée Ilibigiza

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust is a 214 page personal account of Immaculée Ilibigiza’s struggle with faith and forgiveness throughout the Rwandan Holocaust in 1994. I read this book for my multicultural literature class while we were studying Rwanda, as my professor is Rwandan and enjoys spending a good amount of time on literature from there.

Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust

The plot of the novel is quite straightforward; Immaculée Ilibigiza gives an account of her childhood and  education when she was younger (and rather privileged) and also her life of terror during the genocide in order to show how she rediscovered her faith. She details her family life and how close she was to her brothers and school friends, and how, being Tutsi, they all suffered at the hands of Hutu extremists during the 1994 massacre.

Early in the novel, she tells how the Tutsi people were judged even when they were in school. Though this might be attributed to her minor experience of primary education outside of her village, her extremist teacher is no less outrageously terrifying. Ilibigiza also does not mention how the Tutsi people were the dominant ones in the recent past thanks to Belgian missionaries, but she admits in the book that this is not an account of how and why the genocide occurred, but a story of faith.

I am not religious at all, so I have to say, it was refreshing to see someone’s true struggles with faith.  While Immaculée was forced to live in a bathroom with seven other women for about three months, they were expected to keep quiet and in solitude for most of that time. This caused a doubting voice in Ilibigiza’s mind — telling her to seek vengeance on the killers of her family and friends and that there was no God, or if there was, he was clearly punishing or ignoring her. This book did exactly what it set out to do. It was a powerful account of a woman’s search for God through a time of incredible pain and misery.

Some doubts in my mind have been cast by my professor about this book. Truthful accounts from Ilibigiza herself to friends hint that this story might not be the full truth. However, creative non-fiction is often this way, so I just tried not to let that alter my opinion too much. Overall, though I didn’t enjoy having to read “God this, God that,” I did enjoy Ilibigiza’s positive attitude. She never lets herself get too down. Also, though I don’t agree, she seems to be saying that if you pray to God enough over something, He will give you anything you want. Fortunately for her, that actually worked out. Unfortunately for the 1,000,000 people who died in the Rwandan Holocaust, it did not. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys uplifting stories, even if they are a little cliché.