Tuesday, January 27, 2009

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Book Review: The Warriors of Transcendence

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

A book review of The Warriors of Transcendence by Erez Moshe Doron, a Breslever chossid, written in Hebrew and translated to English by Deenah Rachel Misk, by Lev Hadvarim publishing.

It's not often a science fiction/fantasy genre action-adventure story shows up in the religious Jewish bookstore, but there it was, and shortly after on my bookshelf. The story starts with a prologue, a fantasy tale of a deity creating a world and the introduction of evil. How the people of the world reached heights of splendor and goodness, and then had evil tendencies released. And how a battle began between those under the influence of evil with their unique powers in the empire they built around them, and the leader of the good with his followers and unique powers, who would block, contain and destroy the evil.

In some ways, it's a standard fantasy story opening - introduction to the fantastic world in which the story is going to be told, scenario setting for the battle in which the main characters will be involved, and a bit of grounding in the fantasy land to which one is about to be inserted. But this fantasy is founded on concepts of Judaism, chassidus and kabbalah, and perhaps the stories of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev.

We immediately are taken to the dark city and experience an attempted escape, and are given a taste for the function of this fantasy world - powers of the will and soul manifest in physical results. We then move to the main character, an undercover agent who is fighting the infiltration of ideas and agents from the other side - he is a warrior of transcendence. He discovers an enemy has passed through his town and begins his journey together with his son. He encounters "transparent ones", beings of physical form but created out of positive willful thoughts and actions (in other words, what we would call malachim - angels - created from mitzvot). These beings have special powers but limit their worldly interaction.

The story progresses as such stories often do, training, battles, a quest, a war. It had great potential to entertain and to present another world different yet spiritually oriented like ours yet with major physical manifestations of that spirituality. But...

A danger in fantasy stories is creating a world to which one cannot connect or relate. The story flows reasonably well, but the world lacks a completeness, or rather lacks a sufficiently detailed foundational concept to become real. There are gaps that just leave one scratching ones head trying to make sense of it. At first I thought it was just a matter of time until sufficient detail emerges (this was the case in The Days of Peleg - where the amount of difference took about 100 pages to accumulate enough detail to settle into a solid graspable world view). However, the rules - the pattern of the fantasy world - never coalesce into a clear picture.

Similarly, several supporting characters are just a little bit hollow. They arrive and some background is given, but it's not quite enough to understand and relate to them.

The story is almost compelling, the fantasy world based on interesting concepts with potential. But it doesn't quite gel into a solid construct. The gaps in the world and the characters make the story a bit jumpy, mildly confusing, and ultimately unsatisfying.

Available in the US and Israel at Jewish religious book stores and web sites.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

1 comments:

Anonymous said...

Shalom, Akiva.
Is the dark city Trenton, N.J.? Or is it Indianapolis? (I would think Indianapolis...it is terrible and dangerous...and terribly dangerous to drive in...although the pollution in Trenton lends more to the "dark" adjective. Not to mention the "rust-orange" substance coating all who draw breath who enter its chemically-saturated limits.) Hopefully if this is so, the "transparent ones" are from the EPA-Hazmat teams.

Yesha Galluzzo

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