Thursday, July 2, 2009

In Tongues of the Dead - a review

First of all, I'd like to welcome my two newest followers. One is my brother, the Sail doctor. He's not a real doctor, but I'm sure he's played at being one at one time or another. The other is Lori, who is an extremely cool person that I'm getting to know better. I'm a firm believer that people come into your lives for a reason, and tho i don't know why exactly i know her yet, I'm sure the reason will make itself known sooner or later.

Secondly, I just love the way that the internets seem to read my mind, or know what I'm doing at any point in time. Take this XKCD comic for example. Here i was, merrily going along, reading this book, and i came across that comic. Talk about synchronicity. The connection to the two will become clear as you read along.

Faithful readers (if i may be so bold as to use that familiarity) will remember that, a few posts back, i told you about the Shelf Monkey thing going on, which I came to know because of my fascination with Canadian author Corey Redekop. So, I, being the lover of free stuff that I am, decided to contact ECW Press and become a Shelf Monkey.

I chose my favourite genres from a list that ECW supplied me, and then I received an email from Jennifer, telling me that my first book was on the way. (Can i just say how much i love getting things in the mail that aren't bills?)

So, here i am, holding up my end of the bargain. Here goes the review.
These are excerpts from the ECW Press website:

"In the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University there lies a 400-year-old document that no one has been able to decipher. Twenty years ago the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) secretly placed a guard to watch over the document.

The guard, Father Ronald McCallum, is overwhelmed when an autistic child visiting the library appears to read from the manuscript’s pages... Father Benicio Valori, priest and clinical psychologist, is sent halfway around the world to verify the boy’s ability to read the manuscript.

...It becomes apparent the Vatican has sent others to investigate with orders to stop at nothing from keeping the document’s secrets from being exposed. Fearing for the child’s life, Benicio flees the country to Canada and trusted friend and psychologist, Dr. Jake Tunnel.

Despite being distraught by the diagnosis of a brain tumor in his five-year-old son, Jake reluctantly agrees to help his old friend... Soon he and Benicio begin to unveil the biblical origins of the Voynich manuscript and why this autistic child can read it.

They realize that the Voynich Manuscript is the bible of the Nephilim – soulless beings created by the crossbreeding of angels and humans, and despised by God. The angels responsible for their creation were banished from heaven and the monstrous offspring were thought to be destroyed by the flood of Noah’s time..."

Ok, so my first impression was that I really liked the premise of the book. The Voynich Manuscript actually exists, and the Nephilim are in the bible. I did feel that it falls into that whole Dan Brown 'the catholic church is inherently evil and corrupt' kind of deal. Frankly, that has been a little overdone lately.

The book is described as fast-paced and filled with action, which it is. There are many scenes when I was caught up, reading quickly along with the action, and it did hold my interest during those parts.

I feel that the characters could have been a bit more real. Benicio Valori, who is the protagonist of the book, emigrated to Canada from Italy with his parents, when he was a teenager. Throughout the book, he would toss in phrases in Italian, which i felt was a bit affected. It just didn't ring true, to me. Jake is well described, he's a psychologist, and the descriptions of his interactions with, and his feelings about his patients are well done. He and his family are dealing with the illness of his son, and the scenes involving that conflict are well written.

There was a scene in which Benicio is taking the autistic boy, Matthew, across the border. Benicio knew this would be a problem, the boy was not related to him, Matthew did not speak, it was just an all around problem. He thinks through the problem, as they sit at the side of the road near the border. "Then Benicio noticed a lane dedicated to truckers, extra-wide and almost hidden by a parade of semitrailers. It gave him an idea." He gets Matthew out of the car, they have an interaction with one of the other drivers, and then Benicio decides to call his friend Jake Tunnel for help. The next scene that we read about it is with Jake's family, and then all of a sudden "Benicio turned and looked down the road to New Brunswick." What?? How'd they get across the border? It almost feels like the author stepped away from that scene for a bit to figure it out, then never went back to solve that problem. Maybe its just one scene in an otherwise well written book, but it bothered me. It felt unfinished.

It is well written. The author, Brad Kelln is a forensic psychologist in Halifax, he's a special consultant on hostage negotiation to the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP. He's an intelligent man, that comes across in his writing. If you are a fan of Dan Brown, and that genre, you'll enjoy this book.


Kelly said...

Congrats on becoming a Shelf Monkey! Sounds like a cool deal.
Very honest, well written review!

Monica said...

It is a cool deal. I was kind of hoping that i could say it was a stellar book. I wonder if they'll send me another one, now that i wrote this tepid review?

Paul Michael Murphy said...

If you figure out how to get free books, let me know.

Monica said...

Shelf Monkey, man. ECW press. Need i say more? Also, enter strange contests on other people's blogs, that snagged me another one. Be nice to Benjamin Esch, that got me another one... hmmm... hang around downtown with a box and a sign saying you want free books.

Jen from ECW said...

Thanks for the review, Monica! For anyone else who is interested, check out our website and click the "Review ecw press titles" box.