It's Faith vs. Science, but with Different Twist
Perley, Frank, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
In an earlier age, the principles of science were no match for the tenets of religion when the subject was cosmology. But in L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s futuristic The Parafaith War (Tor, $23.95, 383 pages), the tables are turned and the faithful become prey for a man who performs miracles with the help of a sophisticated brain implant.
Trystin Desoll is a young military officer in the service of the Eco-topian Coalition, a federation of planetary systems inhabited by descendants of the long-dead planet Earth. Eco-topian science has brought forth technologies that boost human performance to superhuman levels. Coalition officers such as Trystin, for example, undergo brain implants that allow them to interface with computerized weapons systems.
The coalition is competing for space with the expansionist Revenants, fellow Earth descendants who have forsworn the use of performance boosters. The "Revs" have undertaken a relentless crusade against their coalition competitors, whom they consider to be little more than soulless machines that must be eliminated.
Trystin is convinced that their zealotry will never allow the Revs to end their crusade; the only way to beat them is to short-circuit their faith. He attempts to use his power-assisted senses to convince them that he is the return of their Prophet, hoping to implant a nonviolent principle into their collective psyche that will stifle their appetite for conquest.
Mr. Modesitt's novel is a thoughtful commentary on the comparative influences of science and religion in the human story. Still, while he recognizes the oft-observed tendency of religion to breed intolerance in the name of love, he is silent on the tendency of science to unleash human misery in the name of knowledge.
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Some Star Trek aficionados have been drawn to the popular television series by the captivating special effects. Others have viewed it as a crystal ball in which today's science fiction becomes tomorrow's scientific fact. For those in the latter category, The Physics of Star Trek (Basic Books, $18.50, 188 pages) is a good buy.
Everyone knows the mission of "Star Trek": "To boldly go where no man ["no one" in the new, gender-neutral version of "Star Trek: The Next Generation"] has gone before." Noted physicist Lawrence M. Krauss analyzes the validity of the science that "Star Trek" writers have woven into the show to underpin their vision of an interstellar human civilization.
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking declares in the book's foreword that two phenomena familiar to "Star Trek" viewers - warp speed and time travel - may actually be possible. Mr. Krauss follows that eye-opening assertion with a discussion of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity and how it accounts for the observable curve of three-dimensional space. Likewise, he writes, time, the fourth dimension, might be curved or warped to produce shortcuts, or "wormholes" between two vastly distant locales and ages. …