Saturday, May 23, 2015

Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes--Keyes' Book is Released as an e-book on 05-26-15!

This is the cover featuring Greg Keyes' new
novel, Footsteps in the Sky.[1]
Book Review by:
Sharon Powers.

     Thanksgiving in New Mexico. . .well, that's how I thought of it. Of course, it really was a photography trip with my husband and daughter. My husband, daughter, and I had taken night classes in photography at the local college; I had earned two associate degrees (in photography, of course) and looked forward to shooting at a location that I had never been to before. 

     New Mexico was nothing short of beautiful, as they say, "The Land of Enchantment." We spent a week driving around Northern New Mexico taking photographs in many urban settings, and landscapes, well, everywhere, Chaco Canyon included. On Thanksgiving we celebrated quietly, ate well, and relaxed. Peace and serenity enveloped us so that we really felt and appreciated the beauty and "enchantment" of the land we photographed. Being there was, indeed, something for which we could truly give thanks.

This is the Kachina Doll I bought when
I was in New Mexico. The Kachina's
name is  "Morning Singing."
The artist is D. Livingston. [2]
This is not the black pottery of which I spoke,
just above, here. This pottery was a gift
from my daughter that she purchased
on another trip to New Mexico. [2]
     What I remember most fondly, though, was seeing the kivas and dwellings at Chaco Canyon. I was able to take many beautiful photographs there; they now reside on the walls of my home. Of course, while we were there, I couldn't resist purchasing some mementos of our trip, some handmade jewelry, black pottery, and a Kachina Doll.

     Greg Keyes novel, Footsteps in the Sky, is grounded in that Hopi culture, its people, religion and way of life. He takes the beautiful traditions of the Hopi people of New Mexico and, in a way, grafts it to a different time and place.

"The Four Worlds and the Emergence" [3]

     As the book opens, we are transformed from readers to listeners as Keyes presents us with a beautiful Hopi story. But not just any story; it is the story of how the Hopi left this world where the people everywhere were of "two-hearts," where there existed much corruption and the people were unhappy, to make a new start on another planet.

     In the oral traditions of the Hopi, such an origin story really exists. "The Four Worlds and the Emergence," tells of this traditional story:
Hopis tell stories about ancestral journeys through three worlds to the Fourth World, where the people live today. Here, Hopi storyteller Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava) tells a story, handed down through the generations, about how people began as bugs and migrated and [evolved into people as they] migrated through the worlds." [3] 
This Kachina Doll
is "Maasaw," and
was created by
Bradford Kaye. [4]
      Author, Greg Keyes, takes this beautiful story a step further as he creates a new creation myth for readers. Some of the Hopi heard some footsteps in the sky and realized that someone had to be there and wondered if they, too, could live there. The Hopi sent the Catbird to the sky to find who it was who lived there; the Catbird soon found the person who made the footsteps in the sky--it was the god Masaw. Masaw agreed to let them come to his world and the Hopi ascended to the sky through reeds to Masaw's world--one that required much hard work in order to live and survive there.


     In their life on earth, the Vilmer Foundation was a stand in for Masaw. In a contract with the Hopi, the Hopi would travel to the new world and cultivate the land and make the surface conditions habitable; in exchange, the Hopi would get to keep the land. A hundred years later one faction of those early inhabitants looked to bring back the old way and give honor to the Kachina spirits. The other faction looks to technology and power.

     One descendant, SandGreyGirl (Sand), thinks that the Kachina live somewhere beyond the stars and that the gods have been preparing a new world for the people. Even though Sand hopes that the gods live and that they are, indeed, readying a new world for the Hopi, she has her doubts.

     Those doubts may be well founded since the human race has discovered not only one, but nine new and habitable worlds. "Someone has been seeding planets, bringing life to them." But, as yet, no one has discovered who it is that has been seeding the worlds. No one, that is, until the day those "ancient farmers," returned. Finding that the planet has deviated from their growth plans, they contemplate strip- ping the planet bare and starting over with a new seeding.[1]

     First, I have to say I was very pleased to be able to read this title through NetGalley. Even though it was originally released in 1994, I hadn't read it, yet. I am so pleased, now, because the book is specifically being released at this time, as a digital edition by Open Road Media. And, as many of you may know, I read a lot (but, certainly, not ALL) of my books on my Kindle in a digital edition format. This new release, digitally, will make it easier for many readers who require the portability that hardback and paperback editions, do not. Remember, anyone can read a digital edition on a computer or other device, not just e-readers.

     Second, as I began reading, I felt a little bit confused. For anyone, it is under- standable as you open the pages of a new book and step into a brand new world with which you are unfamiliar. Also, it took me a little while to realize what the author was doing with changing characters and scenes. The A-ha moment, if you will. does anyone determine the point of view of a story? And...what the heck is the point of view of Greg Keyes' Story?

  • Well, the very first thing you need to do is to disregard the dialogue in favor of focusing on the PRONOUNS in the narration. What are the pronouns used?


    • In the first scene, entitled, "Farmer," we see pronouns like we, us, and our; but we also hear the speaker say, I. If you are ever faced with a situation like this, choose the first person point of view. In this story the three sisters operated as one entity; hence, the mixed up pronouns really do equal one person--at least in this section of the book.
    In Greg Keyes' story, Footsteps in the
    , the narrator doesn't use words
    like "you, your, and you're." So,
    we don't have second person. [7]
    • In part "II. Pela," we are introduced to a person named "Pela." Someone says, "Pela," and speaks of Pela as "she" and "her." For example, "Pela took a grateful breath, felt the blood throbbing in her legs and arms." We hear the speaker call Pela by name. Of course, this is third person. The speaker may call the person doing the action by their specific name, here, "Pela."
 Part III is back to "Farmer," and first person while Part IV, entitled, "Hoku," the speaker addresses us saying "Hoku snarled," and "he," "him," and "his"--again third person. So what is up with the back and forth stuff? Why first person then third person? What's going on? We may find the answer by taking a closer look at THIRD PERSON.

     In third person, we can ask if the narrator simply describes facts and events in a neutral way, without including the thoughts or feelings of the characters. If so,  what we have is THIRD PERSON OBJEC- TIVE.
 If the character's thoughts and feelings are reported by the narrator, then we can ask if the narrator is reporting on the thoughts and feelings of one character or multiple characters. If the narrator is only reporting on one person's thoughts and feelings, we have THIRD PERSON LIMITED, but if multiple characters are observed and reported upon, the narrator is said to be THIRD PERSON OMNISCIENT.

     Since we have the narrator making observances that are not just a neutral reporting of facts, we can eliminate Third Person Objective. Also, since the narrator is reporting about multiple characters we know we have third person omniscient. So, there we have it. Not so bad when we realize the narrator is the one speaking and can see into every character. Now, it isn't so confusing.

     Greg Keyes' narrator speaking in third person omniscient speaks with the voice of authority. By his very distancing from the one being spoken about, he gains credibility--some have said that the narrator speaks with the "voice of authority."

     Another really great benefit from writing third person omniscient versus, say, first person, is that first person tends to be all about the narrator telling the audience what's happening, while third person omniscient tends more to show the action. So Greg Keyes is able to use a point of view that helps him show the action--and that is certainly what I enjoyed as the action picked up in the latter half of the book. [11]

     Without giving out more of the plot of the book, I can tell you that the way Greg Keyes weaves the various characters' points of view together, that it conveys an atmosphere that feels authentic and makes the characters feel authentic, as well. Not only that, I found that the story conveyed an ever-deepening sense of mystery and anticipation.

     While the story seems to be a story about the Hopi people, it is also a murder mystery, Star-Trek-like space exploration, and about alien beings from another world holding the power of life and death over the world. Keyes somehow, is able to also weave in spirituality, the Hopi's belief in gods, spirits, and life beyond with moments of poignancy and love; then, characters are hit with painful moments when they realize they've been betrayed. Keyes includes such varied things as tribal conflict, political power, violence, an engineered plague, and a good old-fashioned chase scene. Whew! What a ride!

     As I indicated, above, I was confused a bit at the beginning of the book until I figured out what Greg Keyes was doing with the various points of view. Also, the beginning third of the book was a bit slow getting established. But given the scope of Keyes' novel, I'm not sure how else he could have accomplished that feat. I liked Keyes' writing and "story-telling," very much and find this aspect of dislike not an insurmountable obstacle. I was puzzled, how to answer the question asked of me, "What is your book about this week?" I stammered a bit, and muttered something to the effect of, "It's about the Hopi Indians in outer space colonizing a planet." Then I sighed with my lame description and launched into more detail, trying to explain. Oh, well....

     Greg Keyes' Footsteps in the Sky, is a triumph of science fiction grafted onto earthly roots! It is a book that will hold you spellbound all the way to the end and one that will leave you with imprints of its footsteps in your memory. I haven't seen a book like Greg Keyes' book since I read Hugh Howey's, Wool; I loved the mystery, action, and epic quality conveyed by the novel. The use of voice in conveying an authenticity of the culture of the characters was nothing short of brilliant. Thank you, Greg Keyes. Thank you, Open Road Media.

     Given all the above reasons, and in honor of the title of Greg Keyes' novel, I am pleased to rate this book 5 footprints out of 5. This book has, indeed, the possibility to become one of sci-fi's classic novels.

     Thank you for joining me this week as we got to look at an exciting new e-book release of Greg Keyes', Footsteps in the Sky. I hope you enjoyed reading about this exciting new e-book and and I want to thank you for your time and attention to this blog post. Next week we will look at a new book and see what the pages have in store for us.

Until next time . . .

This flower is a double, white Rose of Sharon. [14]
. . . many happy pages of reading!

My very best to you,


[1] "Footsteps in the Sky." Retrieved 05-15-15.
[2] "'Morning Singing' Kachina Doll." [D. Livingston.], and Pueblo Pottery.  Photographs by Sharon Powers. 05-20-15.
[3] ""The Four Worlds and the Emergence." [Nuvayoiyava (Albert Yava), Tewa Village, August 1969] Retrieved 05-21-15.
[4] "Maasaw Kachina Death Sculpture." [Bradford Kaye] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[5] "Point of View." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[6] "First Person." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[7] "Person." [Second Person] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[8] "Third Person Objective." [Objective.] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[9] "Point of View." [Limited] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[10] "Third Person Point of View: Omniscient, Limited, and Objective."  [Miss Mayfield.] Retrieved 05-22-15.
[11] "Five Advantages of Third Person Omniscient Point of View." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[12] "Is our Society Spiritually Starved for Authenticity and Trust?." [ Retrieved 05-22-15.
[13] "Footprints." Retrieved 05-22-15.
[14] "Pictures From My Garden." Retrieved 05-15-15.
[*] "NetGalley." Retrieved 05-15-15.