CRISIS OF FAITH: Question the Author, Not the Faith
Feb 5, 2013
(Sarcasm) Yes, yes, and yes: I think everyone knows that religion is what’s wrong with our civilization. Think of how much better off if we didn’t have religion! Think of how much further along we’d be! Think of the dramatic leaps and bounds we would’ve made if we hadn’t shackled entire generations of peoples with morals, commandments, and inspirations for right-minded living! Think of how much more productive and responsive the various governments of the world would be without the influence of God, Jesus, Jehovah, Muhammed, or any other Divine Entity! Imagine – if you will – a man completely lorded over by man, and then you know without question what Utopia would look like! (/sarcasm)
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last two paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
The duly elected President campaigning on an agenda of “hope & change” (you fill in blank) has finally assumed the Oval Office, and what’s his first agenda item? He enacts a Presidential commission to rewrite the Bible!
Of course, this premise may or may not be central to the story explored in author Eliza Wood’s CRISIS OF FAITH. It may (or may not) be much ado about nothing, but, if that’s the case, then why the much ado? Wood spends the lion’s share of the first two hundred pages exploring not characters so much as she does an endless stream of facts and figures – she’s compiled an impressive accounting of the underbelly of various religion (its cost in bodies, cultures, civilizations, etc.) – as she sprinkles it voraciously from the mouths of these unfortunately faceless characters. To her detriment, not a single one of these imaginary folks are given any depth – other than their apparent disdain for organized religion – and that doesn’t bode well for this modest attempt to tell a story.
That may be an mild exaggeration on my part, but therein lies my problem with so much of CRISIS: there wasn’t a single person I could relate to in this hodge-podge.
Additionally, what other minor attempts she’s inserted in the attempt to give these characters lives beyond the page appear to have been influenced by bad movies. For example, there’s a storyline mirroring the main plot (scholars trying to take down the Bible) focusing on a couple of homegrown American terrorists (scholars trying to bring down mankind); one of these two ‘terrorists’ is the recipient of a million-dollar trust fund, and he becomes the main character … but the readers are supposed to like him when he does an about face in the novel’s last 50 pages all because he’s found love again! It’s an entirely unbelievable development. Furthermore, these two men hire a secretary, and this woman’s only interview plays out like hard-boiled, dime novel prose a smart editor would’ve excised from so high-minded a tome.
Stylistically, much of CRISIS is, well, in crisis. Is this drama? Is this melodrama? Is this comedy? Is this farce? It makes little narrative sense as author Wood abandons any serviceable prose in favor of having her characters spout endless streams of data – facts, figures, tidbits from history, anecdotes that have little connection to actual events of her story (assuming there is a greater story at work here). There are parts that feel comical (almost farcical), and there are other parts still that smack of social satire (which I’m inclined to believe may’ve been Wood’s idea as so much of what transpires in the last 50 pages – the only part of the novel worth reading) along the lines of a bargain-basement DR. STRANGELOVE OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB. Were this her intent, then I’d strongly suggest a title change to PRESIDENT STRANGELOVE OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BIBLE.
Despite my shortcomings with the bulk of the work, I suspect there is an audience for CRISIS. It isn’t that it’s poorly written; it just that so much of it isn’t a novel, nor does it resemble one in passing. Kudos for trying something a bit different, but if you truly want to reach your core audience then don’t abandon your work (or your ideas) in favor of creating something that may’ve reached a wider readership only to have them dismiss your book as political drivel. That’s certainly no place to start.
CRISIS OF FAITH is published by Pomegranate Free Press. The novel bears the cover price of $24.95, a bit steep for my tastes.
MILDLY RECOMMENDED if for no other reason that it’s perhaps a great example on how not to write a novel. CRISIS OF FAITH is filled to the top with characters that I couldn’t relate to in any way, shape, or form. Additionally, I’m at a loss as to whether or not Ms. Wood’s work is intended to be one of fiction, non-fiction, satire, drama, or comedy, as there are wildly disparate elements at play which never come together in any cohesive fashion I can grasp. My initial impression is that CRISIS began its journey to printed form as a non-fiction book and, maybe, somewhere along the way somebody had the inspiration that it needed to be a novel in order to find a wider audience; were that the case, I think it was a mistake. Were it not the case, then I’m left as confused as the next reader as to the central premise.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the La Jolla Writer’s Conference provided me with a copy of CRISIS OF FAITH for the expressed purposes of completing this review.
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