Kathy Tyers’ Firebird series is renowned by many for its explorations of worldview questions in a stirring science fiction setting. I have written on the Firebird Trilogy before. Here, we’ll take a look at the two concluding books in the series- Daystar and Wind and Shadow. Specifically, I’ll be analyzing them from a worldview perspective. There will be SPOILERS for the whole series below.
Both books have much to say about human nature. In particular, questions about the extent and nature of our free will abound as we as readers are confronted with different concepts of determinism and free choice. Although this theme is never, perhaps, fully developed in philosophical terms, the very activity of the characters makes a kind of argument towards the notion that we have free choice that is genuine, though the question of whether this might be compatibilist–set alongside determinism–or not is left open.
Daystar also raises major questions about the nature of humanity itself–are we purely material beings; or perhaps purely spiritual and trapped within a material body; or are we a unified center of body and soul? The organization known as the Collegium puts forward a kind of mystic view that we are eternal souls which, when we die, go back to the infinite, impersonal divine. There are strong elements of both Gnosticism and Platonism to be found in this teaching, and it is one which resonates with New Age type beliefs and other worldviews today. We need to think on this for ourselves: when it comes to the very concept of what it is to be a human, are we essentially matter, or is there something more? Christians need to think on such issues deeply and consider our own standing in the universe.
There is a fantastic meld of science fiction technology and the reality of the spiritual realm found throughout the Firebird series. Wind and Shadow, in particular, moves the concept of spiritual warfare front-and-center. A Shadow being possessed Kiel, a kind of priest, and attempted to convince him that he ought to proclaim himself as the coming Messiah. In this way, the spiritual being sought to gain control over the course of events. The interplay of the spiritual and physical was something that was interwoven throughout the Firebird series, and it is important to reflect as Christians on how that might play out in our own lives.
Not long ago I read an excellent book on spiritual warfare which presented several views on the topic. I think we need to be prepared to dive into such challenging topics and see what the Bible has to say about them.
Daystar reads much like a lengthy biblical Gospel. The story therein is that of the coming Messiah. But it is far more complex than that. It is also a story of the attempt to exterminate an entire people group; the story of religious conflict; of materialism; and more. However, the core of the book, and much of the series, is the hope for the coming Boh-Dabar, the Messiah. That Boh-Dabar ends up being Tavkel, a herdsman from a secluded place.
Tyers brings forth themes about the Messiah in surprisingly insightful ways. First, she integrates several parables into the text as Tavkel instructs people in the faith. (See a recent Sunday Quote! post for one of the parables from the book.)Some of these parables find parallels in those Jesus taught; others are clearly inventions of Tyers’ mind to try to put forth spiritual truths. All of them are unique and engaging. Second, Tavkel is very explicit about his own nature as divine. I think this was a good move on Tyers’ part because sometimes it can be easy to miss how clear Jesus’ own claims of divinity were. When Christ claimed the authority to arbitrate and expand the Mosaic Law, that would have been astonishing. In Daystar, Tavkel points to himself as a divine figure.
One conversation with Meris, a character who is a foreigner and who holds to rival beliefs, depicts Tavkel explaining the notion of being fully divine and fully human. Tavkel explains it by pointing out that “My father created the human form. He has mastery over it…” Meris objects by arguing that it doesn’t make sense that Tavkel can be “one hundred percent” human and one hundred percent God. She asks “Which [are you]?” Tavkel responds, “Both.” When Meris says “That’s not possible,” Tavkel responds: “Is light a wave or a particle Meris?” (426). Though the analogy is not perfect, it does help us to envision how we might assume to much in our own ability to comprehend reality.
Third, there is also much discussion over how the Boh-Dabar may fulfill some prophecies in unexpected ways and that even some preconceptions of what the Messiah figure should be or what verses are even about him might be mistaken. This finds its parallel in some ways in Jesus, who, being the Messiah, yet did not come as a military leader as many expected. To see the people in Daystar figuring out the implications their Messiah has for their understanding is a unique insight into how the Christian story itself might have played out during its earliest days. Confronted by the reality of a risen Lord, notions of what the Messiah should be had to fit this risen Savior.
Daystar is filled to the brim with interesting conversations and speculations like this, and the best part is that they point beyond themselves to the truth of God’s word.
Daystar and Wind and Shadow are excellent works in a fantastic science fiction series. I highly commend the whole series to you, dear readers, not just as a great way to think about worldview, but also simply as excellent science fiction by a bestselling author of the genre.
Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues in the Trilogy in this post.
Microview: “The Annotated Firebird Trilogy” by Kathy Tyers– I review the trilogy with a brief look at the plot and some positives and negatives in the book.
Popular Books– Check out my looks into other popular books (scroll down for more).
Sunday Quote!- A Science Fiction Parable– What might a parable look like in the future? Well, not too much different from one now. Check out this post on Tyers’ speculative parable in Daystar.
Kathy Tyers, Wind and Shadow (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2011).
Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2012).
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Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Science Fiction Parable
Before I dive in here, I want to note that there are SPOILERS for the last book of the fantastic Firebird series by Kathy Tyers in what follows.
Kathy Tyers’ Firebird Trilogy was an amazing piece of science fiction which integrated issues of faith and worldview into a stirring narrative. In Daystar, book five of the Firebird series, the prophesied Messiah, the Boh-Dabar, has come. The book is in many ways a science fictional retelling of the biblical Gospels. The Boh-Dabar, Tavkel, is a clear parallel of Jesus in many ways, including the telling of parables. One of these parables was particularly striking, and I’ve amended it to quote it here[mostly took out other dialogue and place names]:
“Once there was a little girl… She had a little pet that she loved… It was a kind of creature she’d never seen…. It had four stubby legs, a big head, ans sharp little teeth… She opened the bag of pet food the dealer sold them, she put the food into [the pet’s] bowl, and she stroked it while it ate with those sharp little teeth… After a few days, the girl noticed something. Her pet wasn’t getting any bigger. In fact, it looked thin… She found out that [its] species was strictly herbivorous–but the pet dealer had sold them dried meat pellets by mistake…
“It looked like a carnivore. So she asked her parents to buy the right food… And it sniffed the good food, but it wouldn’t eat. It walked away from the bowl and looked up at her with desparately hungry eyes. It had learned to like the wrong food. It refused to eat what would nourish it, because that food seemed strange and mysterious. One day it lay down at her feet, looking up at her with those hungry eyes, and it died.” (430-431, cited below)
The story is powerful and emotionally charged. Like the parables of Jesus, it also hints at much beyond the mere words spoken. For the rest of the book, Meris–the non-believing character Tavkel is telling the parable too–reflects on it and tries to draw out its meaning. The meaning, however, does not become clear until the Boh-Dabar fulfills the same kind of prophecies which Christ fulfilled.
Looking at this specific parable, there are many layers of possible meaning. How might we be eating food that doesn’t nourish us? Could it be a sinful habit, a practice, a temptation we give in to? Have we made ourselves used to bad food so that we don’t recognize that which is good? Do we need to ask God to help bring healing to our own habits of life? But the text could go in other directions as well. Have we seen others in ways that are mistaken? Perhaps we see something about someone else and think we do not want to associate with them. We see “sharp teeth” and think “predator.” We flee from that which is different.
Daystar is a wonderful piece of fiction which points beyond itself to something even better. Tyers has done a great service to readers by uniting themes of faith with stirring science fiction action and intrigue. This parable, I’m sure, will stick with me for some time, and that is exactly what good fiction should do–point you towards truth.
Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- Kathy Tyers’ “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar”– I look into several worldview themes that Tyers raises in these sequels to her Firebird trilogy. What would a Messiah in the future look like?
Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)
Kathy Tyers’ “Firebird Trilogy”- Faith, Humanity, and Conflict in the Far Future– I look at a number of worldview issues brought up in the “Firebird Trilogy.” Be sure also to check out my review of the trilogy on my other site.
Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colarado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave Press], 2012).