The Almost Perfect Creation

Welcome to the world of Shianshenka, inhabited by the delicate Zhongzi. Microbiologist and genetic engineer Jules Mitterand created the "perfect" creature – a small, feathered, intelligent being with a unique life cycle.
The creature was engineered to live only when falling through the air. Each Zhongzi had "little paddles that drove its dynamo, sensory organs on long stalks, skinny feathered limbs for steering and braking, and a funnel for absorbing dust." When dropped onto the planet, each Zhongzi would come to life as the air delivered nutrients. They would float over the world living out their individual life purpose, given to them by Mitterand, before reaching the "golden hour." In the golden hour, each Zhongzi would create a son and pass on the knowledge he had gained before falling to the planet's floor and thus, his death. In this way, each line of Zhongzi would live on.
The creatures, however, engineered to be perfect, evolved into flawed beings. It started simply enough; one Zhongzi, Ne’ne, wanted to learn the fate of his son and desired the chance to have another life to do so. Inadvertently, he discovered a geyser, which propelled him into the air, and into his wished-for second life. The Zhongzi discovered how to extend their lives into multiple runs, developed communication, explored their land, and created a culture.
They domesticated animals, settled colonies and in the end, created religions and ideals that resulted in conflicting morals and idealistic splits. From the title, the reader is aware that these creatures will fail, but it is sad to watch them do so. Instead of embracing their purpose to record, reflect, and grow in their individual talents, the Zhongzi evolved into creatures that not only understood, but also created, war and genocide.
The characters were difficult to keep track of through the naming structure. While the family line was easily identified, a particular Zhongzi's place in the lineage was not always clear. In the beginning, it wasn't a matter of great importance, but when the clans split to settle different colonies, and the names were linked to locations, it became a bit of an issue. This confusion made the book feel a little longer than it needed to be as the reader tries to keep track of which Zhongzi was colonizing which part of the island.
These issues were small, however, and did not hinder the reading experience in any strong way. The book was refreshing; the world was unique, the characters inventive, and the language beautiful. Through the Zhongzi, the Sivertsen builds discussions on the nature of evil, the importance of lineage and identity, the double-edged sword that is progress, and the slippery slope of fighting fire with fire.
Sivertsen built a beautiful world and created multimedia accompaniments to take the reader far beyond the experience of the printed page. Upon closing the pages of Shianshenka, the time spent with the Zhongzi does not have to end. If you haven’t read this book yet, you should, because it is unlike anything else you’ve read before.  


Creative Commons License
This work by H.E. Saunders is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.