A thousand years in the future, Kaleem Malkendy lives in an underground cave and is teased by his classmates for his dark complexion and fair hair. He doesn't look like his other Terrestran friends, but when his teacher begins to explain that the world used to have different nations, she's stopped in her tracks. The Terrestran authorities don't take kindly to the sharing of Hidden Information.
When Kaleem is contacted by Razjosh, one of Terrestra's Elders, his life changes forever. Suddenly, he has access to information that he never previously suspected the existence of: Golden Knowledge, passed down by the Elders to their successors. And at the heart of that Golden Knowledge is the Babel Prophecy, and the role that the Peace Child must play in it. That Peace Child is Kaleem.
The Prophecy is a novel I hadn't heard much about until I picked it up last week. As someone who adores all things futuristic the premise defintely appealed to me, but I hadn't seen many reviews and so I wasn't sure what to expect. As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised by this absorbing and unusual story set in the Earth's far distant future.
As a main character, Kaleem is an underdog you can't help but root for. He's the son of a single mother - a rarity in a world where natural conception is unheard of - and lives in a cave-dwelling with outdated technology compared to that of his friends' homes. His society forbids certain knowledge and considers the pursuit of this knowledge tantamount to theft. History is out of bounds, and so is information about life on other planets in the universe. For Kaleem, as for the reader, the effect of all this secrecy achieves one thing only: major curiosity! Luckily for us, when Kaleem is chosen as his generation's Peace Child he is granted all kinds of knowledge and experiences that he would never otherwise have known about. Most importantly, he learns to speak the languages of the different planets in his universe, meaning that he alone can acquire knowledge from the people of other planets. As his world expands, Kaleem learns more about who he is and discovers just how much different nations have to offer each other. It's a message that is sure to resonate with the 21st century reader, as our societies become more multi-cultural than ever before.
On to my very favourite part: the world-building. Or in this case, universe-building. As well as a fascinating cave-dwelling society on the future planet Earth, now known as Terrestra, we encounter virtual reality constructions of life on other inhabited planets and get to travel with Kaleem on his mission to the planet Zandra. Wherever the story takes us, there's mind-blowing technology, intriguing local customs and a sense of the history that has moulded and shaped these very different civilisations. It's all richly drawn and satisfyingly complete, with a generous sprinkling of those tiny little details that can make readers truly believe in a sci-fi world. We learn that Terrestran teenagers socialise at a bar which serves nectar laced with mind-altering chemicals, and that Zandran men have no problem with receiving bouquets of Black Tulpen from female admirers. We taste breakfast on the planet Tarentet, and it's delicious.
The Prophecy is the kind of novel that truly satisfies that desire to explore new worlds. It's thought-provoking and it's unique. I enjoyed it whole-heartedly, and will be looking forward to visiting Gill James' vision of the future again in the second Peace Child novel. Those who enjoy stories set in the future should definitely consider giving this out-of-the-ordinary tale a look.
Out: now in the UK.
Thank you to Red Telephone Books for providing me with a review copy of this book.