Friday, August 17, 2012

Review of The Jericho River by David Carthage

I occasionally do book reviews, but its unusual for me to comment on a novel. The Jericho River is an exception because of its unique approach, which has us learning ancient ancient history while we enjoy the story. To me, any method of proliferating our subject matter is good and this is more fun than most.

The Jericho River chronicles the dream journey of Jason Gallo, a young man sent to the Land of Fore to rescue his father, William, who is trapped there. The father, a history scholar, has become unconscious and doctors are unable to revive him. One of them, the odd Dr. Valencia, convinces Jason that his father is stuck in a dream world and the only way to save him is to go there and bring him back. Jason agrees, not knowing what’s in store for him, and after falling asleep finds himself transported to ancient Mesopotamia where he has to learn to survive and begin the search for his father. Immediately captured by bandits, Jason is saved by a lumin in the form of a lion with a man’s head. Zidu quickly becomes his companion and friend for a journey down Jericho River – the dream world’s path through history. After Sumer, they travel to Egypt where they are joined by the exotic priestess Tia -- ordered to go with them by her guardian, who wants the girl to experience the world. Tia is strong willed and temperamental but honorable and passionate in stark contrast to Jason’s irreverent impatience.

The trio journeys to Crete, Babylon, Israel, and Persia guided by the tiniest threads of information about Jason’s father, while enduring the attacks of Barbarians and pirates who seek to enslave them. Along the way, Jason learns how to communicate to other lumins using his thoughts, and becomes intensely aware of the spiritual world.

At every step of the journey he hears rumors of a mysterious man, called the Rector, who is after him for reasons unknown.

Down the river our heroes travel to Athens, northern Europe during the barbarian period after the fall of the Roman Empire, and finally the medieval world. They are shocked when they meet a group of fairies living in a secluded wood – angry fairies who have lost the power to help mankind because they have been replaced by science. Jason learns this is the work of the Rector and his International Empirical Society -- men dedicated to destroying lumins and fairies as enemies of progressive thought. He sees the cruelty in this right away, perpetuated by those who would raise science to the status of gods.

At the climax of the book, Jason’s dream becomes a nightmare when he comes face to face with the rector and is forced to stand up for what he has come to believe. He is now a man and must survive on what he learned from his dreams.

The Jericho River is more than it seems on the surface and is not just one more adventure story. Advertised to be a subtle teaching of history in an action adventure wrapper, it is certainly that. You experience the history first hand from the characters that are living it and that experience is more real than dates and names in a history book. And while it may be geared to the adolescent reader, it fits the adult fun equation as well.

If you want to look beneath the fun and get philosophical, you can do that too by contemplating one of the great moral themes in the history of man -- the role of science and its impact on human spirituality. Man has embarked on a 2000 year journey to explain the world and, as he has done so, gradually replaced fear of the unknown with science. Where does this process end and what do we have when all is known?

I, personally, don’t want to live in a world of equations where everything is explained. Give me a fairy or two and let me dream.

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