This entry is about the first three volumes of Csodaidok (MagicalEras) tetralogy, by Raana Raas (Gorgey Etelka), published in Hungarian. More about the books in Hungarian and English here.
I made the mistake not writing up my reviews/summaries of each the three volume of “Csodaidok” that I read. Now it is hard to separate them in my mind, so I will write about the series instead I got the first volume several months ago and jumped on it with great pleasure. The second volume arrived via mail from my Mother in Hungary a week before my end-of-year trip to Europe and didn’t have a time to read it before departure. The third she handed me in Europe, but I couldn’t read it on the plane back as I first had to attack the second. So upon my return to the US I started the second volume, but life, being its customary busy, prevented me finishing it fast enough.
I usually go to bed by 10 PM, even New Year’s night. This year, however, friends came over and we managed to stay away till after midnight. After that I was reading the second volume till it was done at 3 AM. As I managed to get up at 7AM on the first day of the year, i.e. didn’t sleep enough, I spent the day a bit hazy. At 3.30 PM my wife went over to her friend with the baby and left me in bed, where I was ready to fall asleep. I just wanted to read a few more pages of volume 3, before falling asleep. But I couldn’t put the book down, so again against my better judgment I read instead of sleeping. Now I am down with the books published and looking forward for the fourth, final volume. Meanwhile I read its first chapter on the book’s homepage, where the author posted it as a Christmas gift.
Having covered the speed I ended up reading the book its first quality is apparent. It’s a pageturner, hard to put it down. Some books have similar qualities where you are tempted to jump over a descriptive paragraph in order to be able to follow the action faster. This is not one of those books. It’s fast moving enough that there is information everywhere that you need to fully appreciate the story with all of its intricacies. So my first comment that it was a real pleasure to read.
The book made you follow the motivations, aspirations, history and character development of every major person. Besides the action, that’s why you have to read every line. Just to enjoy the understanding you gain about how in any given situation a particular person is reacting and why. Each chapter contains 5-10 segments, focusing on what’s happening in the life of one of three characters (Judy, Giin, Yaan,.) The segments are chronological, but set at different locations. I kept thinking of what great movie these books would make. The chapters always follow each other in the above order and that’s how the whole story, with its dozens of other characters, is woven together. Thus my second praise is the structure about the book: it is logical, well built, consistent and provides the best framework for storytelling.
The same can be said for the next level: Each of the three volumes I read had a central, underlying theme. On one hand the volumes are consecutive and follow a single story with its dozens of threads. On the other hand the author managed to break down the flow in a way, that it I possible to think about what you learned from any one of the volumes. The first (Az Ogfak vorose – The red of Ogfas), besides establishing the universe the events take place, is exploring the meaning of family. The second (Kiszakadtak – Those who left) is about the ambivalence and impossibility of full separation, while the third (Arulas- Treason) tells us the numerous ways and consequences of treason. Looking forward or the fourth, concluding theme. I am wanting it to be about harmony and peace. I suspect the only way to get there is some sort of meta-synchretism, where opposing side will clash and something new will be born out of it.
Looking into myself I realize that the main reason I loved this series was that it combined three of my favorite interests: religion, sociology, and science. One of these days, when I become serious I will work at the intersection of these fields myself. Meanwhile I enjoy other people’s work in the field. The religion of “Kaven” is fascinating in Raana Raas’ work. It shows that the author has a PhD in Theology and did Hebrew Studies as well. She solved one of my biggest challenges with the Talmud: how to find anything in it. In her fictional religion the sacred writings and its comments are organized by topic. I would love to be abel to access the Bible and its commentaries that way. (Yes, I know about the Shulchan Aruch that does that for Halachah, and the thousands of other works that try to index Judaism’s sacred text, but the sheer volume of indexes is overwhelming and contradict the concept of making something “easy to find”.) As an information scientist I am also aware that a topical list is just half the solution for a large quantity of information: you need a good index as well. What’s a logical organization of themes for one person, makes no sense to another.
I enjoyed reading quotes from the Bokra, the Kaven’s sacred book, if you can call a book with 7200 pages. They predict a comprehensive integration of Abrahamic religions. Hadiths, Christian principles, Jewish axioms are equally traceable in them. I hope the series will be so widely successful, that somebody will write a volume about the theology hidden in it. I’ve seen book about management in Star Trek, mythology in Star Wars and linguistics in The Lord of the Rings. Csodaidok follows the tradition of at least the last two. It is a complex myth with heroes, villains and everything in between. It also is a linguistic marvel of the future of mankind, showing one of many directions where we and our languages might develop.
I am hoping that the books will be translated into English as I would love to share this treasure with my friends and family. These were the most exciting books I read in Hungarian for some time.
P.s. I was looking for an English summary of the topic of the series as I am aware I didn’t actually describe in my review what it is about. Unfortunately I didn’t find any. So here is a rough and dirty translation of the books’ summary from the page you can buy them in Hungarian. It will give you sense of the scope of this science fiction book.
1. The universe of the Csodaidok is a strange, futuristic world created with rich imagination. It’s not better or worse than hours, just different. But you will not only be amazed when you step over the universe, where mankind is living on multiple planets, but will find it familiar too. We don’t travel between solar systems, don’t stroll on orange green under the shade of red treed, don’t know the fantastic possibilities of 3rd chess of holographic communication, but understand quite well Judy’s desires, who is growing up in an orphanage, or Yaan’s feelings who is rebelling against his tyrant father, or the internal struggle of Giin the respected leader. And the family dynamics, the warmth of tradition, the hotheadedness of youth, and how politics work will all feel familiar, along with terrorism.
2. This unusual, attractive yet stirring world is opened to us through the lives of the three protagonists in the second volume a well. Judy’s, the spectacularly talented young woman has to be wed, marriage has to be arranged by his father, according to tradition. Giin, her father, is the head of the family business, which is an economic force on its own, is known politician and spiritual leader in the whole galaxy. His personality is dividing the community and he risks of being banned from the Kaven because of his politics. Yaan left this community voluntarily and becomes a high ranking soldier, under his new name, Paul in the service of powers that threatens his birth family’s existence.
3. The few years after the occupation of planet Alfa allowed our heroes to settle – as much as possible. Judy, who is hiding under her old name, is studying in CSU-1. Giin is hunting for members of SE, who integrated themselves into the governments of the free states. Yaan is raising his daughters with his wife. The war breaks out again and all three of them find themselves on the battlefields, and not even always in the armies facing each other. The numerous treasons in the background influence the war’s progress at least as much as the fights themselves. The Raas family also has to face their own traitors, beyond the field of politics, and there is someone who is be betrayed by those who he trusted with his life.