The Creed Of The Oracles: A Review By Joshua Uchenna Omenga


By Joshua Uchenna Omenga 

The Creed Of The Oracles by Ebi Robert is, at least to me, a novel difficult to classify. And so I will say only a few words on classification, not because it doesn’t deserve the attention, but because classification is distracting.

The very first sentence of the novel introduces the reader to a country by strange name of HEH—in all capitals—and unusual period in time, 000 CAL. The suggestion of invented world gets even easier with the almost Bunyan names of the characters. But just as one settles in classifying the novel as fantasy, it turns literary and the feeling of not just literary but deeply philosophical writing refuses to leave the reader for the rest of the pages. Is it then a fantasy novel, a literary novel, a philosophical novel, a blend of them all, or something uniquely unclassifiable? Distractions! The Creed of the Oracles is quite simply a story of unique characters in unique situations!

Some words of caution: The Creed of the Oracles is not a story for casual reading. It is a story that requires concentration to grasp the intricacies of wordplays necessary to comprehend the nuances of the story. There is, of course, a layer of entertainment for the casual reader; but the reader who intends to get the most of the story must begin by giving it some concentration, for the story starts quite heavily with gathering of oracles speaking in parables and innuendos. And—to worsen the case for casual reading—the story takes quite a significant time to foreshadow the scenes ahead. And only after about the one-sixth of the story does the story emerge and its symmetry becomes clearer. Only then does the reader appreciate the foreshadowing and is rewarded for their patience. From then on, the suspense is dangled just sufficiently to tantalise the reader while he broods on the grave human experiences underlying the story.

But for all that, the Creed of the Oracles has its moments of humour. With Natt and Fyne, the reader feels the joy of spirits liberated from the shackles of convention. The reader is willing to barter the wisdom of Zucks and the oracles and the gods for the company of Natt and Fyne as they effortlessly hold up the mirror to the all too human frailty of seeking the help of the divine. One cannot help but have sympathy for these free spirits when caught up in their schemes. Their lighthearted mischiefs provide perhaps the most human lesson in the story—the ability of the fool to prey on the wise and get away with slight scuffs.

The Creed of the Oracles abounds in symbolisms, some of which may appear simply entertaining on the first read. The mischief of Natt and Fyne in appropriating the prophecy of the chosen one to extort those desperate to have the first ears of the gods may only entertain on casual reading. But laden in that mischief is a telling caution for those who patronise the religious institutions whose self-imposed intercessors, like Natt and Fyne, fleece the congregants in search for messages from God. And what can one say of the conspiracy at the Maggi’s Hill to topple the chosen shepherd, Brighten, because he is perceived too young to lead his bearded fellow disciples? It is all too reminiscent of the refusal of the old order to give way to the new.

And then, woven as if casually behind it all—though it was in fact the heart of the story—is man’s perpetual desire for immortality.  It is once again time in HEH to elevate one human to the plain of immortality and everyone scampers for it, bartering gold and loves. But here, the irony cannot be more pungent. Zucks, the ladder to immortality, has his lifespan reduced by the very god he has devoted his time to. And yet it is he who must conduct the test for the one to be elevated to the immortality he cannot have even as his life totters on the edge of an assured doom. And being relic of the old order, he refuses to fight fate and resigned to his allotted time and function.

Which makes one wonder—what exactly is there to the wisdom of the gods? Or their clemency? In the Creeds of the Oracle, the gods play their devotees like fiddles. They give ambivalent prophecies and aphorisms and laugh as their devotees grapple for their meanings. This is nothing new, of course, for the follies of the gods have always been shielded in cryptic words of their oracles. But in the Creeds of the Oracles, the supposed superiority of the gods is questioned by Erecious when he transcends mortal life to the abode of immortality. In making his wish from the gods, Erecious tricks them into granting him the power to banish them from their abodes. Man, after all, has a fighting chance against the gods even if only in wits. Why keep pandering to the dictates of the gods?

Rebellion breeds when the establishment is questioned. Lady Magarat questioned the established order of men and gathered similarly aggrieved women to Randigolf and formed her band of deserters (or women of the wild). The freemen questioned the established ruling class and chose to live without laws. These provide fitting contrast to the tenacious old order of the oracles and the country bound by their declarations.

The Creed of the Oracles, in its brief pages, offers a story open to many layers of interpretation which, like most classic literature, gets deeper with each reading. The writer has delivered well, but the reader must exert some efforts to enjoy the literary feast therein.

© Joshua Uchenna Omenga 2023

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