This Heaven and Earth trilogy is original, exciting, interesting reading, but I still feel that with a little more work it could have gone from good to excellent and been placed among the likes of Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials. Like those books, these deal with conflict between the forces of Heaven and the beings on Earth, but are set in this world, many years into the future.
After scientists discovered that there was indeed life after death, mankind went about exploiting Heaven, resulting in a collapse of the lower Altitudes onto Earth, an expulsion of all souls from Heaven (which now exist as woeful Morphs) and ongoing conflict between angels and Humens: the soulless mechanics ruled over by the Doctors. In between these two factions are the Residuals, ordinary people who are shunned by both sides and trying to scrape out a living on the wasted Earth.
All that changed however when Miriael the angel crashed to Earth and was nursed back to health by Ferren, a young tribesman. Finding herself in a physical body, Miriael began to explore the world of the Residuals and realised they were not as savage as she once believed. Ferren himself explored the Camp of the Humens, and found out the terrible secret behind what they were doing with the tribesmen selected for military duty.
Now the two of them travel the land, urging scattered Residual tribes to join together in a Residual Alliance. At the beginning of this second book in the trilogy, they have come upon the tribe of the Nesters, and are attempting to coax the Guardian Elders to join up against the Humens. The older population is not so keen, but they may have better luck convincing the younger generation. Amongst these youths are Kiet, a young woman who is struck by Ferren’s ideas and stories and vows to come along with him when he moves on.
Meanwhile, Miriael is being visited by a fellow angel named Asmodai who promises to speak on her behalf in the levels of Heaven and together with Kiet and Ferren, she discovers a new threat from the giant Doctor Saniette and his force of new war machines.
Ferren and the White Doctor seemed to be a better read than the previous book, though perhaps that was because my expectations were not so high. Once again the chapters were too short (only three pages long), but because the characters were together for most of the story, it was easier to keep track of what was happening (unlike before, when the chapters were continuously switching viewpoints). Ferren is a much more interesting character this time around, perhaps because he’s got more to do rather than simply watch other events unfolding, and Miriael is as good as ever. Kiet comes across a bit too much like Zondra of the previous book (what with a bad temper and rapid mood swings), but improves as the story goes on.
Richard Harland has created a vivid representation of a future-Earth, along with a time-line and map that shows up what has gone on between 2005-3000AD, and how things stand when we enter the story. Likewise there is a range of interesting tribes and the customs they keep, and he has drawn on real angel-lore in order to create the hierarchical system that Miriael is a part of. One of my grievances of the first book was the lack of God in all the proceedings (surely a story set in Heaven warranted at least a mention of Him), but here there is reference to the “Supreme Trinity” in the Seventh Altitude of Heaven. It’s not much, but it’ll have to do.
The best comparison of these books I can give is the Mortal Engines books by Philip Reeve. It has the same simple structure, clear writing, and inventive post-apocalypse way of life. The third part of this trilogy is called Ferren and the Invasion of Heaven, and I’m interested enough to keep reading.
Heaven And Earth Trilogy (Ferren) — (2004) Young adult. Publisher: In the year 2010 after the Invasion of Heaven, human psychonauts trample the sacred fields of Heaven, & the angels retreat to higher altitudes to avoid the contamination of the physical. In the year 2520 the Millennial Wars have reduced the Earth to a devastated battleground. In the year 3000 the evil Humen are determined to destroy the power of Heaven, while the Residuals, a primitive race of people, live fearfully in the ruins of civilization. In the midst of this hatred & fear is born a unique friendship that could change the course of history.