i have just finished the left hand of god, by paul hoffman (penguin books). this is an imaginative fiction story, the first in a series (at least that's what it says in the publisher's description in my reading copy).
the left hand of god opens in the "sanctuary" a walled religious community run by the brutal and fearsome redeemers, their faith based around the hanged redeemer (read: jesus). the redeemers have been collecting boys from a young age, for a long time. they beat and abuse these boys; training them as their acolytes...to be soldiers in a great war.
cale had been singled out since he arrived, receiving special attention (good and bad) and has grown to be the best fighter of the lot of them, emotionless and independent. when vague henri (the closest thing cale has to a friend) finds a secret stash of rich, delicious food (compared to the foul rotten meat they are fed daily) he brings cale and another boy, kleist, into hidden labyrinthine passageways where they happen upon unthinkably cruel acts performed by a head redeemer on a young girl. (the boys have never seen a girl before). too late to rescue one girl, they are able to save the voluptuous and agreeable riba and they four of them make an escape from the sanctuary.
this section of the story is probably my favourite, i felt it worked best, the journey across the scablands and meeting the fascinating idrisspuke. what follows covers the territory of fighting, warfare, trust, love and hate, with some delightfully named characters.
hoffman uses familiar place names in his made up world, taking parts of various cultures to make up this new one. he also uses a pastiche of history, so if you know much about the history of war it's very interesting to see what he's trying to do. it's sort of like having deja vu the whole way through the novel. it's a western, a samurai film, a bible story, the holocaust story and a medieval tale all rolled into one.
i think this is a very interesting attempt, but is lacking a certain something, a bit of "oomph!" and while i liked it, i didn't love it and i'm not very excited about the sequels. this is sort of a poor-man's the knife of never letting go. minus the aliens.