Travel Documents 71: The Fifth Sacred Thing

The Fifth Sacred Thing


Genre: near-future, speculative fiction, solarpunk

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The Dust Cover Copy

An epic tale of freedom and slavery, love and war, and the potential futures of humankind tells of a twenty-first century California clan caught between two clashing worlds, one based on tolerance, the other on repression.

Declaration of the Four Sacred Things

The earth is a living, conscious being. In company with cultures of many different times and places, we name these things as sacred: air, fire, water, and earth.

Whether we see them as the breath, energy, blood, and body of the Mother, or as the blessed gifts of a Creator, or as symbols of the interconnected systems that sustain life, we know that nothing can live without them.

To call these things sacred is to say that they have a value beyond their usefulness for human ends, that they themselves became the standards by which our acts, our economics, our laws, and our purposes must be judged. no one has the right to appropriate them or profit from them at the expense of others. Any government that fails to protect them forfeits its legitimacy.

All people, all living things, are part of the earth life, and so are sacred. No one of us stands higher or lower than any other. Only justice can assure balance: only ecological balance can sustain freedom. Only in freedom can that fifth sacred thing we call spirit flourish in its full diversity.

To honor the sacred is to create conditions in which nourishment, sustenance, habitat, knowledge, freedom, and beauty can thrive. To honor the sacred is to make love possible.

To this we dedicate our curiosity, our will, our courage, our silences, and our voices. To this we dedicate our lives.

The Deets

The Scene

World building

I’ve waited a little while to write up this book. I’m glad to do so today. If we can’d imagine the future, we won’t be able to live into it. That is where this book comes in.

In this work, Starhawk gives a stark showcase of two futures we may live ourselves into: on the one hand, a dystopia of control, dehumanization and inequality ranked by skin and money.
On the other hand, a solarpunk future. Not a utopia, please understand. It is not perfect. There are dozens of things in the process of being improved. But this is a future where we choose food over weapons. Water over money. Community over individual gain. This book shows us an achievable future, and how we could reach it.
The future we will live in? That’s up to us.

The Crowd


A very real cast of characters inhabits this world. They are people: kind and cruel, broken and healing, soft and hard. They are healers and warriors, criminals and los curanderos. They are human, in all our natures: our fears and our loves, our shames and our sins, our connections and our joys. Each character has their own flaws: Madrone’s mule head, Bird’s anger, Mia’s hot tongue. And each has their beauties: Little John’s loyalty. The magic of the Bee Women. Resolve. And compassion. Such stunning compassion.


The Lingo

Writing Style

While there is a weakness for preaching in Starhawk’s style than can come off just a little heavy handed, the beautiful poetry of the prose kneads the lessons into the story, making them easy to take in and listen to. And though some of the characters lecture, they are all such powerful and interesting individuals that I found it a story flowing like water, blooming like flowers.

The Moves


A powerful story that shows us another way to be, it winds together past and present, adventure and magic into a fascinating interpersonal tale that is wound around with an epic adventure. Deftly showcasing what it means to value human rights, ecological rights, and the living world around us, it is the tale we need today.

Overall Rating

Right now the world hurts. This book helps. That is the highest praise I can give.