Crime is considered illness, untreated illness is crime; ambulance crews are the only police. Dead bodies stay on "life support" forever. Can anyone gain freedom?
When burned-out starship captain Jesse Sanders is seized by a dictatorial medical regime and detained on the colony planet Undine, he has no idea that he is about to be plunged into a bewildering new life that will involve ordeals and joys beyond anything he has ever imagined, as well as the love of a woman with powers that seem superhuman. Still less does he suspect that he must soon take responsibility for the lives of people he has come to care about and the preservation of their hopes for the future of humankind.
Winner of a bronze medal in the Independent Publisher (IPPY) Book Awards, this controversial novel deals with government-imposed health care, end-of-life issues, and the so-called paranormal powers of the human mind. Despite being set in the distant future on another world, it appeals not only to science fiction readers but to others who question the dominant medical philosophy of today's society, or who value personal freedom of choice.
This is the first book of the Hidden Flame series, and is followed by Promise of the Flame. They precede the Rising Flame series, consisting of Defender of the Flame and Herald of the Flame, which is a separate story set two centuries later that can be read alone. Unlike some of Sylvia Engdahl’s previous novels, these two series are not Young Adult books and are not appropriate for middle-school readers.
Please note: The cover of this book was changed in April 2015. It is not a new edition, as the book itself has not changed.
From the reviews:
"The story is compelling, and drew me in from the first few pages. . . . I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading genre fiction with some substance to it." --Blogcritics
"A suspenseful and thought-provoking novel that seems so plausible that it sends chills up my spine . . . truly a masterpiece of parapsychological science fiction." --Rebecca’s Reads
"A chilling look at what extreme socialized medicine could become in the hands of a dictatorial medical regime. . . Would make an excellent discussion topic for a book club." --MyShelf.com
"A brilliant twist on dystopianism. . . . The book builds just the right amount of tension, and shows the stark reality of benevolent tyranny, one that any so-called democracy could creep towards quite easily." --Prometheus
"Grips the attention with the raw immediacy of the problems. . . . It asks the sort of questions only SF can pose, and paints a vivid picture of where failing to answer those questions might lead. . . . Stewards is the kind of SF I've been craving!" --Jacqueline Lichtenberg (author of the Sime/Gen series)
"Stewards of the Flame is a brave book, and the numbers of those holding to the sentiments it conveys are growing. While the novel portrays extreme measures taken to prolong life to reductio ad absurdum lengths, it can't be faulted for challenging our comfort zone, when after all, that is one sure measure of worthwhile fiction." --ScifiDimensions