End of Night

Fiction - Science Fiction
284 Pages
Reviewed on 04/14/2021
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite

Ishmael A. Soledad's Sha'Kert: End of Night is a science fiction story that begins on a futuristic Earth and continues on a far distant planet, Sha'Kert. The story is told from the points of view of different characters. The futuristic Earth is technologically advanced and many distant planets now have human settlements. Greg Robertson and Louise Hierro face a terrifying dilemma when their 6-year-old daughter Penny is diagnosed with a terminal genetic illness. To pay for the medical procedure, Greg commits a crime. When Greg's crime is exposed, the entire family is sent into exile to a distant planet. Traveling with them on the spaceship Pegasus is a group of Amish families, seeking a new place to continue their traditional way of life. Something goes wrong on the space journey, and the Pegasus lands on an unknown planet.

I enjoyed reading Ishmael A. Soledad's Sha'Kert - End of Night particularly for its compelling characters: Greg, Louise, Henry, and Menno. Their personal narratives, and the richly imagined environment and ecology of the planet Sha'Kert brought the characters vividly to life. For me, Greg became the central figure. He feels an immediate connection to the new planet. His relationships with others become complex. The pace and tension of the story pick up considerably with Greg's exploration of the planet. I liked the way Greg's new discoveries reveal the very significant differences in the Amish way of life and Greg's independent thinking. I thought the character of Henry Stoll, Menno's son, played a very important role, a bridge between Greg and the Amish because Henry left the Amish when he was 17, preferring a modern education and way of life. I felt the most emotionally difficult and heartbreaking part of the story is the impact on Greg's wife, Louise. Her greatest concern is their daughter Penny's life. I saw Louise as a remarkable and courageous woman, even as Greg's drive to explore the planet turns into a wedge between them. A well-crafted fascinating story, of love, of conflicts, of courage, resilience, and of the unquenchable curiosity to explore, to search for other intelligent life.

Ronald A. Geobey

This is a captivating story, told from the characters' (first-person) perspectives. Greg is a law enforcement officer, and criminals take advantage of his position when he needs life-saving treatment for his terminally ill daughter. You feel his desperation and empathise with the pressure he feels. His wife also has an excellent character arc, coming to question her commitment to Greg as the story evolves and they have to survive on an alien planet that he becomes increasingly infatuated with.

For me, the Amish arc was fascinating, as I knew nothing about their society. Soledad did his homework, as far as I could tell (I checked some details), and he really brings to life the difficulties faced by a community trying to keep progress at bay. It was strange to find myself sympathising with their plight at the same time that I was frustrated by their stubbornness and their xenophobia on the alien world, but this is a novel that makes you think all over the place.

Regarding the alien contact element, I was reminded of an episode of Star Trek: TNG, where Picard had to learn the myths of the aliens before he could communicate with them. Also the movie Enemy Mine came to mind, but Sha'Kert isn't about warfare in any sense. It's about a lot of things, really, but I found it put to me questions of meaning and purpose, and the terrible pressures society puts us under. I also thought about the childish wonder and the love of exploration we all abandon as we grow older. I was left a little bereft by its ending, but only because I didn't want it to finish. I highly recommend it, and it's a book you'll devour in a few days, due to its pace and style.