Around the world of alternative religions in 80 days.
Call of the Forbidden Way by Robert Owings poses as a novel. However, seasoned readers will find it to look more like a thinly veiled vehicle that offers the author the ability brag about his knowledge of alternative religions.
The book begins with a videographer (Carson) who is hired to film a Native American religious ceremony. After he returns home, he begins to experience dreams of a talking bear. He later finds that he has been chosen to be trained to employ Native American medicine in order to help stop a nefarious group that plans to destroy the world. So far, so good. If the author had focused on this one plot line, and delved into the marvelous history of Native American medicine in great detail, the book might work. However, the Native medicine man decides that in order to successfully become a medicine worker and help save the planet, Carson must travel the world and study other religions such a Hinduism.
Except for the protagonist, the characters are undeveloped. These flat characters suddenly appear and take the time to lecture readers on religion-based issues such as the Tibetan diaspora and the destruction of the library in Alexandria. Carson, the protagonist, is the only character with a backstory. Most of his travels seem pointless and the conversations didactic. Carson finally finds a supernatural deity to become his mentor . This deity talks like a Vaudeville comedian and can take the form of a steam locomotive. It is also interesting that one of these convenient characters tries to lead the reader to believe that Princess Dianna was killed due to her membership in a cult. It is doubtful that her relatives will appreciate this plot element. Carson’s final training session takes place in Mississippi.
Most plots begin with exposition and from there climb toward one or numerous turning points. Because this book focuses only on Carson’s educational location hopping, the plot flatlines. There is no vehicle for enhanced tension and therefore no need for release. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that the tale is all tell and seldom show. All-tell detracts from the ability to create a sense of place.
The book is also held back by literary issues. The author creates unfortunate dialogue tags, some which contain adverbs and appositives. Said should be used in place of he snapped or whined. Also, each character should have his own voice.
The constant jumping from one religion to another diminishes the ability to spend due time with any one of them, thus creating opportunities for misinterpretations. An example would be the less then accurate mentions of astrology and the flippant uses of psychedelic drugs such as ayahuasca.
The most objectionable issue in this book is the degrading use of dialect in the dialogue of three African American characters who all speak with the same voice. The author makes them sound like they live in the slave quarters of Gone With the Wind. African American citizens of the South do not speak like these characters. None. Not even elderly folks who cannot read or write. Dialect should be limited and must always be handled in the most accurate and sensitive way possible.
For readers seeking a lecture on world religions, this book may be a good choice. Readers looking for a well-written story should look elsewhere for entertainment.
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