Paradigm Lost: Jamari Shaman
Age warning: semi-graphic depictions of a (homo)sexual nature. Not appropriate for younger audiences.
Paradigm Lost: Jamari Shaman is a brilliant commentary on being open-minded and on finding oneself. Jamari belongs to the Elk Creek Tribe, living in an Oregon of the future. Disasters have ravaged the country, reshaping geo-political boundaries and allowing new cultures to flourish. Jamari is traveling to truly find himself and to find the job that he will take on. To do this, he must explore many.
I found this story fascinating from an anthropological point of view. The Elk Creek Tribe in the far past (it’s been near a century since “the Fall”), decided it best to separate the men and women. Relationships of a homosexual nature are now fostered, with heterosexual pairings being assignments for breeding purposes. To prefer a heterosexual relationship is considered aberrant.
Younglings decide when they are ready for adulthood, rather than having it thrust upon them at an arbitrary age. When they are ready, they will undergo the Manhood Rites and will be assigned a mentor for “Night Studies,” which is to say, for shepherding them through sexual encounters. Shane and Jamari’s mentor/student relationship reminded me of the cultures with similar relationships I learned about many moons ago, albeit for different reasons.
I speculated early on that in this culture, having developed after major upheavals and being descendant from a population that should remember the danger of rampant overpopulation, inculcating homosexuality as the norm was a method of cultural population control that was either purposefully decided or, as is often the case with (seemingly) bizarre customs or taboos, having grown up organically. I’ve been taught to look at the oddest of customs with the eye of anthropology and cultural relativism. I love that Collins flipped the paradigm here, with homosexuality not seen as taboo. We need more books like this that portray it as normal, without making a big deal over it. I must say, bravo with the title. It is very appropriate.
All that being said, the beginning seemed disjointed and skipped ahead in leaps and bounds. I learned later that the first few chapters are actually taken from Paradigm Lost: Jamari and the Manhood Rites. They seem very out of place here. A brief recap would have been better instead–though, really, neither are needed.
I found the writing stilted and awkward at times. Things would flow better with more showing and less telling. The story is solid, with good messages. I look forward to seeing Collins grow as a writer and will be on the lookout for new stories.