173 pages, Fiction
3 1/ 2 out of 5 stars
Here’s a new book by first time author Katherine Kellogg Heflin named Measure the Sea, a story about a colony of modern-day oracles struggling with their identity and the future of their colony. This is a quick read and the plot moves swiftly. Heflin never once forgets that she’s telling a story. We’re in the modern world, where a colony of oracles in Tennessee has become a sort of tourist trap. Outsiders visit the colony in droves and pay the staff of oracles for “listens” or for a prediction of the future. The listens have such a reputation for accuracy that even the President of the United States uses these oracles for advise on foreign policy.
But this thriving society has some secrets – what is making the aging oracles lose their memory? Is the traffic from the outside world polluting their colony and causing oracles to be sickened with disease? Can the leader of the society, a sage, Obi-Wanesque woman called the Pythian be trusted to protect the colony? One member of the enclave, a teenage girl named Emory is going to get to the bottom of it even if it means a life of exile.
The writing is sound and though the characters could be a little more developed, the significance of this book is how this fictional society reflects our own. They rely on technology to make a living, and exploit the marketplace to its full potential. They plan for their future by training a new generation of oracles yet when an oracle’s skills begin to decline and they lose their memory, these elderly citizens are sequestered in a type of retirement home where they are quickly forgotten. It’s a world where the ideals of the young threaten to supplant the traditions of the old.
Part science fiction, part teen adventure, with an activist heroine that reminds you oddly of Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games books (only not as annoying), Measure the Sea is an admirable first book from Heflin. I’ve heard through the rumor mill that a sequel is underway, which is necessary because the book ends with a few story threads unresolved. Whether this be accidental or intentional, Heflin succeeds in leaving the reader wanting more.
Measure the Sea is available in paperback or download from Lulu.
Reviewed by Mark McGinty, April 2011.
Mark McGinty is the award winning author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy. His work has appeared in Cigar City Magazine and La Gaceta.