Mabel: Josh and I are lucky we get to interview you, Mrs. P-V, for the Valentine book reports due next week.
Me: Valentine book reports?
Josh: Yeah, it’s supposed to be about the Romance genre. Not really my thing, but I’m counting on Mabel to get to the ‘heart’ of things. Get it?
Mabel: Hilarious, Josh. Anyway, we’ve decided to do our report on The Shushan Citadel.
Me: You do realize I’m not a Romance-genre writer.
Josh: Like I’ve been saying, Mabel. Mrs. P-V is more into sci-fi, fantasy and suspense.
Mabel: And romance!
Me: I agree that The Shushan Citadel can be read as a love story on several levels.
Josh: I love science fiction, but I understand this book is a work of speculative fiction. What exactly is that?
Me: Speculative fiction is a sci-fi subgenre, and in the case of The Shushan Citadel, it’s a what-if look at the world following a global disaster known as the Desolation.
Josh: Did you have to do a lot of research on comets and meteorites for the Desolation stuff?
Me: Sure. Readers expect good fiction to be infused with reality.
Me: Most definitely.
Mabel: It’s cool the way you use the Book of Esther as the foundation of your story. And by the way, Josh, a love story can have suspense.
Josh: I’ll be counting on you to convince our teacher.
Mabel: No worries. Who is your favorite character, Mrs. P-V?
Me: Perhaps Abbess Brigid, but I’d enjoy spending time with several of the characters.
Josh: I like how General Haz morphs into a tyrant, then builds a palace fortress and creates a harem. He’s heartless for sure, even using students attending Shushan University and tourists stranded at his theme park as his so-called subjects.
Mabel: But it’s good his neighbours at the monastery island and in the First Nations community aren’t defenseless.
Josh: Did you pick up that dún (pronounced doon) in Abbey Trádún and DúndirkaNoka means fort?
Mabel: I did, which brings me to the next question. Can you talk a bit about the Intelligence Forces?
Me: The abbey and indigenous people had their own undercover arrangements prior to the Desolation.
Josh: To protect themselves against terrorist attacks.
Me: Yes, and the Jewish underground develops at the Citadel to thwart General Haz and his Governors. It’s inevitable for the three services to work together against a common enemy.
Mabel: Hadassah – who becomes Esther – is the perfect recruit to plant at the Citadel. Let the Romance begin.
Josh: Along with the interview, we have to include some excerpts from the book.
Mabel: So we’ve taken bits and pieces from the chapters on the Grand Banquet.
The Grand Banquet from chapters 16-21
Already, there was considerable speculation on the remarkable names of the inhabitants of Shushan. To date, the abbey and the aboriginal settlement had been introduced to a General Haz, also known as Ahasuerus, his wife, Lady Vashti, and Meres, self-described anti-terrorist agent. It seemed a strange coincidence that the Book of Esther in Hebrew Scriptures tells of a city called Susa or Shushan, depending on translation, in the Persian Empire ruled by King Xerxes or Ahasuerus who was married to Queen Vashti and who had among his legal advisors and governors-of-state, one Meres. What did it all mean? Was the Citadel re-enacting that story of intrigue, power, bloodshed and war? It was therefore critical to determine what could be prudently revealed and shared in forthcoming discussions at Citadel. “They want us to show our hand,” said Juana. “We must be convincing yet not enlightening,” agreed novice-mistress, Sister Ginette.General Haz decided to transport all his guests to the Citadel by airship so that the journey would be faster and safer. Because this involved many trips to and from Abbey Trádún and DúndirkaNoka, Dragonflies began arriving at both locations on Saturday, three days before official starting date of Grand Banquet…As previously arranged, warriors from Noka were already in place throughout the monastery complex to supplement abbey security during the absence of the fifty residents selected to attend Shushan banquet. In the monastery courtyard, children and adults alike gazed upward, waving as the first of the Dragons lifted skyward. Some of children cried, remembering other adults who had disappeared from their lives forever. At DúndirkaNoka, most of the farewells took place underground in the subterranean city. With several of people on duty at Abbey Trádún, and others preparing to leave for Citadel, this was deemed wisest. Along with First Nations scouts patrolling the outer premises, newcomers in the satellite villages were on high alert. Within the Citadel’s formidable walls, the residence of Ahasuerus resembled a medieval castle, magnificent to behold from air and breathtaking at ground level. Its marvellous gateway was framed with slender turreted towers offset by larger polygonal towers guarding four corners of surrounding curtain wall. Massive oaken doors opened into huge entrance hall – foyer’s curved concrete walls were pierced by narrow windows, which splashed bands of stained glass colour upon polished marble floors. A circular stone staircase climbed elegantly upward toward a skylight high above. Once a visitor moved beyond the entrance hall, the medieval castle disappeared. In its place, as if by magic, appeared a futuristic palace.
Each visitor was fitted with a numbered wrist bracelet … and invited to sit in a comfortable lounge chair … The chair train moved into the atrium, crossed a bubbling stream, wound along through pleasant gardens, up sloping path to guest suites on the second floor … Abbess Brigit was escorted into her suite by a lovely young woman whose chestnut hair glowed and whose eyes were an astonishing navy blue. She wore a gown of gauzy green that floated about her slender body and her feet were clad in slippers matching the gown. When she introduced herself as Hadassah, Brigit wondered if the young lady could possibly be a restoration of Hadassah from the Book of Esther.Mabel: Doesn’t that give you the most delicious goose bumps? The perfect Romance selection for the Valentine book report.
Josh: Even though it’s Sci-Fi, Speculative Fiction and Suspense.
Me: I’ll be interested to hear the class verdict.