Review of Jonathan Edelstein, “It Is Not From Heaven”, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Issue 308 (July 16, 2020). Read online. Reviewed by Richard Lohmeyer.
I’ve never read a story where a talking fish sparks religious controversy in a community, but there’s a first time for everything. Shemaiah is a fisherman on an island community who, as part of a morning’s catch, finds a fish in his nets that tells religious tales and repeatedly warns: “They are coming.” Who “they” are and whether the fish is accurately prophesying the future is unclear. Shemaiah takes the fish to the Shevi’im, the theocratic Council of Seventy who govern the community. Instead of clear guidance, arguments and fistfights break out. As the story progresses, the situation escalates to the point where, during the annual Feast of the Sparing “the gathering looked less like a feast than an armed camp on the eve of war.” I won’t tell you how Shemaiah helps to resolve the situation but the title’s story gives a clear indication of his feelings about the fish. My feelings about the story itself, however, are mixed. There is clearly some fine writing here, but I never felt as emotionally caught up in the story as I would have hoped. Perhaps that’s a failing on my part; you be the judge.