Friday 8 September 2023

Exogenesis - Peco Gaskovski

Ignatius Press
ISBN 9781621646341
eISBN 9781642292749

This was a fascinating read. I had never heard of the author. But both the title and description of this story really grabbed my attention. Once I started reading I could hardly put it down. The writing is tight. The characters masterfully written and the plot is ambitious and well executed. After reading this I can only hope there will be many more from Gaskovski’s pen. The description of this story states:

“Out of the collapse of Old America rises Lantua, a glittering thousand-mile metropolis where drones patrol the sky and AI algorithms reward social behavior. The most compliant citizens enjoy the greatest privileges, the poorest struggle to rise up the echelon system, and criminals are subjected to brain modification. Birthing and genetic quality are controlled through mass embryonic selection, with fetuses grown outside the body in artificial wombs—a technology known as exogenesis. But rebellion is brewing. Lantua struggles to control the Benedites, a rural religious people who refuse to obey one-child regulations. Each February, Field Commander Maelin Kivela oversees the forced sterilization of Benedite teenagers, a duty she carries out with unflinching zeal—but this year comes with a shock. After escaping an ambush by insurgents, Maelin returns to the city to choose one of over three hundred embryos to be her child, only to come face to face with a secret that will tear her life apart and alter the course of her civilization.”

The story itself if preceded by three quotes, one from a future history relevant to the story. And one from a government manual at the time of the events and one from the bible. They are:

“As the Old World collapsed, radical followers of the Christian religion fled the cities and sought security in rural areas. Here, like the old Amish, they formed small agrarian communities centered on traditional family and religious practice, and used limited technology in their daily lives. They called themselves “Benedites”, a name whose origin is unclear but could be connected to “Saint Benedict”, a holy man from the Roman age. Some of the Benedite sects even adopted the Classical Latin language as their native tongue—a linguistic feat that remains a marvel to this day. The peculiar ways of the Benedites might not have troubled the new State of Lantua, which developed in parallel with them, were it not for one thing: the Benedite tendency to have large families. This tendency was regarded as a grave threat to population management, and triggered the first mass sterilization policies.”
 —Gidwyn Klüg, A History of the Early Benedites
“The threefold strategy may be summarized as follows: Control the seed of their bodies, control the seed of their lands, control the seed of their minds.”
 —The PMD Guide for Counselors, Seventh Edition
“And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.””
 —Genesis 1:28

In some ways they story is like other dystopian or science fiction stories in that there is a social credit rating. Do good, follow the rules, excel and your rating goes up. The higher your rating is, the more benefits you receive, bigger housing, better vehicles, more credits … Or the lower it sinks the less you have and have access to including medical services and protection. 

Living outside the city state of Lantua are areas of homesteaders, the Benedites. A group intent on the old Roman Religion, Large families, working farms. All but one male and one female in these families are sterilized. The government must control population. Field Commander Maelin Kivela oversees a team to see to the forced sterilization of Benedite teenagers. Yeah year they go out to the settlements outside the city, they offer the youth a life in the city if they walk away from their family. But Maelin has secrets of her own. And as time goes on she is beginning to question the complete control over all aspects of her, of their lives. When she encolunters the hundreds of embryos and must pick one to live and the rest to be flushed, she has a crisis of faith in the system she has known her whole life. 

About the author we are informed that:

“Peco Gaskovski is a writer, neuropsychologist, and a pilgrim in the technological Machine. He lives in Canada with his family, on the borderlands between the urban sprawl and Mennonite country.”

This story is written as a history. The Three quotes at the beginning and the single one at the end of the story set the story in place in the history. The story ends with these words:

“By A.D. 2392 (301 L.A.), the once-great state of Lantua had dissolved into a patchwork of city-states, rich and self-interested, embedded in toxic slums like proverbial pearls scattered in mud. How could this have happened to a civilization that, for over two centuries, had functioned with the power and efficiency of a machine? Benedite scholars have argued that the cause of Lantua’s demise was due not to political, military, economic, technological, or even population management failure but to something more basic: the absence of a sacred order at the center of its society.”

With the current antagonism towards Catholics specifically and Christians in general in the west this story could easily be a prophetic look into the future. But it is also a story of home, and about humanity and being in touch. It is a deeply moving story with few true heroes, but with people who can be respected, with a sociopath, and with many just keeping their heads down following the rules. An exceptionally well written science fiction story. One I can recommend and one that would be excellent for a book club or book study. I can easily recommend this story for teens and older readers. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

Books by Peco Gaskovski:
The Affair Box

Chronicles of Remembrance Series:

Books edited by Peco Gaskovski:
Staggering Along With God

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