Book Lust has hosted the More Diverse Universe reading tour, featuring speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, and all the really weird but really cool things in between) written by non-Caucasian authors. I think this is totally FANTASTIC because I have a great interest in speculative fiction, especially sci-fi, that is written by people who are not white English-speaking Americans, Brits, etc. (I've made a 7-page list of such novels, too, if anyone would like a copy...) As I have only one such novel with me at college (sad, isn't it?), I chose to read Field of Honor by D.L. Birchfield for the event. Birchfield is a Chickasaw-Choctaw Native American whose other works include Black Silk Handkerchief: A Hom-Astubby Mystery and How Choctaws Invented Civilization and Why Choctaws Will Conquer the World.
Read: for A More Diverse Universe
Reading time: three days
Patrick Pushmataha McDaniel, half-blood Choctaw, has been hiding from the U.S. Marine Corps for ten years, ever since he deserted during the Vietnam War. When his secluded Oklahoma valley home is overrun by the U.S. military on some kind of secret investigation, he stumbles upon an underground Choctaw civilization. What follows is McDaniel's entanglement in the culture and politics of this hidden, high-tech community where the traditional ball games rule.
It's important to note that Field of Honor is intended to be rather bizarre satire, because after realizing that, one can accept just about any weird, unrealistic thing that happens. And there are many weird, unrealistic things that happen from the beginning to the end of the book, so just sit back, suspend your disbelief, and enjoy the strange ride. I found Birchfield's satirical gibes at American politics, history, and culture totally hilarious, though I think giving them away would ruin the enjoyment of surprise. The Vietnam War, of course, comes under attack, as does the English language, North American colonialism, Anglo-American heritage, 20th-century presidents, Texans, and many, many other subjects. It's quite fun. At the same time, the novel also teaches a great deal about Choctaw culture and history, albeit in a very unique and unexpected way.
The only issue I had with Field of Honor was I would have liked it to be longer. McDaniel is becoming embroiled in the intrigues of this underground Choctaw group, but the book ends soon after without much closure. There's no resolution to what's going on with the Choctaws, even though some of the issues could have disastrous consequences for both them and others. It's a rather quick and unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise very well-developed and engaging novel.