by AW Hill
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Pub Date 19 Sep 2022 | Archive Date 01 Feb 2024
Isobel Lemont, raised in an abandoned factory and orphaned at thirteen, talks to the saints and sees leaves of grass where others see only the ashes of a despoiled planet. She and others of her kind, branded heretics or 'Atrophines' for their refusal to embrace the new technological order established by The Architect, are driven to the ass-ends of the earth and left to famine and disease, the "humane way" to thin the herd and prepare the world for the post-human era. But Isobel has been given a mission-a ministry-and it's nothing less than the reclamation of the earth for the lowliest of its citizens and the restoration of an ancient faith in the anima mundi (the soul of the world).
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Average rating from 11 members
this was a great concept for a scifi novel, I really enjoyed the way AW Hill wrote this. The plot worked really well together with the characters. I was hooked from the beginning to the end and loved every second of it. I really enjoyed the way it was written and look forward to reading more from AW Hill.
"I’d never climbed these kind of stairs before, and the feeling was almost magical, like climbing to the sky. Halfway up, I gave a soft smile to Levi, and his smile came back at me through the dimness of the big room. Then I saw something in an arrow of sunlight that I knew I would need to see more closely."
I confess I haven’t read much fantasy since Lord of the Rings; in my “grown-up years” I’ve gravitated toward reality-based fiction. A.W. Hill’s Ministry, however, taps into my youthful romance with the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, and kicks it up a notch!
The word ‘enchanting’ may seem inappropriate for a post-apocalyptic adventure that begins on the “ass-end” of a burned out city, with a dead, frozen-stiff father. But, trust me, early on in this sprawling novel you will be warmly under Ministry’s spell.
Much like Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, life in “the valley” begins as a dark dream story, recounted by a naif, with fierce antagonists lurking around every corner. The girl’s childhood name is Christmas.
Isobel Christmas Lemont was born on Christmas day, and in the year of the Expulsion, along with her mother and father is among the expelled. Accelerated global warming – on which Hill goes into only essential detail throughout this book – has moved the earth into a new system: “the temperature got higher, the seas poured in, and things stopped growing.”
The diminished natural resources turn the population into the Elect (or “Tops”) and the Atrophines - the banished ones. The Elect survive on algae, cultivated in heavily barricaded cities all now on saltwater ports. The Atrophines survive basically on pre-apocalyptic garbage.
During the Expulsion, Isobel loses her mother. But she is doted on and educated by her father with the aid of the Big Book - the Random House Illustrated Encyclopedia. After ‘Daddy’ dies on a foraging mission in sub-freezing weather, our heroine, now experiencing visitations from the saints she learned about in the Big Book, strikes out to find sanctuary.
To summarize this 573 page adventure in a brief synopsis would be as daunting as the trials that await young Isobel Lemont. Suffice it to say that Isobel's "ministry" is finding the Architect, who has taken control of the world, and either bringing him around or taking him down. Her power is simply speaking truth and hope – that “things are growing again.” She spreads her conviction to as many souls as she can reach, her message often accompanied by music and dance! Eventually Isobel builds an army of followers. Music plays a spellbinding role in this novel and, like other readers, I envisioned a cinematic version of Ministry from beginning to end.
So, what makes Hill’s tale of adversity in a dystopian world stand out from the others, the “Left Behind”s in our current zeitgeist? It’s the visceral paean to humanity in Hill’s voice, often through the dialogue of Lemont. Her manner is impish but intimate, her speech so unblinkingly honest it evokes a child just learning to talk. Each well-crafted character we encounter along her pilgrimage adds a poignant level of humanness to this often thrilling journey. There is a purity of mind and indomitable spirit infusing Ministry that make it a truly exhilarating read.
In fact, there are times when Hill’s prose is so timeless and true, you could mistake it for something you once came across in classic English literature. But then you read the passage again, and think “no - this is just what good writing sounds like.”