Elom: Cave Bear meets Close Encounters

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review William H. Drinkard ElomElom by William Drinkard

I really loved this novel.

The blurb for Elom got me: “The Clan of the Cave Bear meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”

William Drinkard is not your typical debut novelist. He served in the Alabama State Legislature for twelve years, and even was the Senate Majority Leader. He’s still involved with politics, but not as an elected official. When one hears such things, one wonders, “Yeah, but can he write?”

In my opinion, the answer is a resounding yes.

The novel starts when the young Geerna is preparing for the ceremony that will make her a woman. Her devotion to her goddess, Shetow, is unquestioned, so when light appears and when it takes her up to the heavens, she believes that she is going to Shetow.

Next, we are transported untold thousands of years to a gathering of female clan leaders known as Medoras. They share the world of Elom with an alien species known as drak, who are a sort of feathered lizardmen. The drak have notified them that it is time for the Second Judging, a time long-foretold when Shetow would decide if the People are worthy enough to continue existing. They decide to use an unexplained Trait that the Medoras were given at the last Progression (which is about equivalent to an “eon,” or an “Age” for Robert Jordan fans) to decide who would become a representative. The candidates must be selected by the conclusion of the upcoming mating ritual, where young people compete for the privilege of procreating.

Along the way, we learn that the People have lived according to a Covenant that Geerna made with Shetow in order to be given their second chance. Men are hunters and women are artists. There are other occupations of course — no society could function with only two jobs — but it is forbidden to cross these gender lines. Everyone’s life has one purpose — to improve the race for the Second Judging by selective breeding certain traits of intelligence, artistic ability and physical prowess.

The rest of the Elom is about these eventual representatives, their competition and selection, and their enlightenment as to what is really behind the Second Judging. A great deal of time is spent with their various rivalries and love lives, but this is interspersed skillfully between revelations about the Second Judging, the nature of the drak, the truth behind a mark most of them have on their skin and the fate of the artwork that the women of the twenty-four tribes has labored for centuries to produce.

I really enjoyed the way Drinkard revealed more and more of the secrets of Elom while the characters made their travels, and few of the secrets were anything I expected. I particularly enjoyed a scene toward the end when the three human races of Elom — collected from Earth at various points in the past — see each other for the first time. I just wish that they all had a chance to actually interact with each other.

Drinkard’s writing is unaffected yet lyrical, and absolutely riveting. This novel is definitely a candidate for a reread. As I came closer to the end, I began to wonder if this novel is the start of a series, since it became clear that something I expected to happen would not happen. However, the ending — which I found reminiscent of a certain encounter in Carl Sagan’s Contact — made the possibility of a sequel ambiguous. The story feels like it came to a conclusion, yet it definitely hints that the adventures of the seven are far from over.

FanLit thanks Tia Nevitt from Debuts & Reviews for contributing this guest review.

Elom — (2008) Publisher: Fire from the Goddess and the meat and furs of the mammoth are all that the People need to live. It is a harsh life but a good one and it is one that all cherish.Young Geerna knows that the time has come for her to become a woman and take up the tasks to keep her people safe. She waits in the Awakening Place, fearful and hopeful as her ordeals come to an end. Then, on the eve of her Womanhood, a shining light descends upon her and her world is torn asunder.And she embarks on a journey that none of her people could ever envision…Eons have passed. Cycle upon cycle the Way of the People have remain unchanged: women are artists, men are hunters. Geerna’s Law is the covenant by which humans live in harmony and peace. But all is about to change. A call has come for The People to choose their champions, and a summons to meet the mysterious creatures who selected Geerna so long ago.All is unknown. As the brave souls who are chosen venture forth, they will come to discover just how much that pact that Geerna made so long ago has cost them.And they will have to confront the choices that might help them to finally know true freedom.

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TIA NEVITT, a guest contributor, has been a mechanic in the Air Force, a factory worker, a civilian supply weasel for the military, and finally, an office worker. She’s been an IT professional for 13 years, and now she's writing her own novels. Find out about them on our Tia Nevitt page or at Tia's blog.

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