16 November, 2012

Keeping Lotuses (Loti?)

Offline for some days, so quite a while since posted; never mind, here's an Early Reviewers review to make up for it.

K.R. Dial

Unfortunately, i was able to predict at the beginning of the book ~ maybe about five pages in ~ what it would be about, how the major turns of the plot and development of the characters would go, and what the essential themes would be, and i was not proven wrong in my predictions. That in itself is not the sign of a bad book; it could well be that a predictable plot is worth reading for the power of the writing (after all, i reread books which i know intimately for their writing, among other things), but the writing here is not that strong, being fairly basic and simple.

Dial has a message to get across, two messages, actually, and has chosen a novel as a means of doing so; however important the message, and i'm not commenting on that at this point, a novel needs to be more than a container to be a real success; The Lotus Keeper does not have the feeling of being anything more than the medium of the messages. The messages are to Dial, i would have to assume, of supreme importance; she wants to show the necessity of depending on God ~ believing the Gospel, in other words ~ and give a picture of the current trafficking in the world of children for sexual exploitation, primarily by Western men. I have to agree that the latter is of supreme importance and should be shouted from the housetops in the attempt to prevent this horrific behaviour; the former, for the Christian Dial is, is also essential and worth passing on to others ~ evangelising is one of the tasks of the Church, after all.

I have pointed out in another review, however, that the end does not justify the means in writing as in other areas of life. At that time i was referring specifically to the habit some Christian books have of making everything revolve around the Sinner's Prayer and the acceptance of the Gospel by the character who has been chosen for that purpose; i find that an essential dishonesty by an author, if it does not actually flow from the action. This time i am concerned about ends and means both for the conversion and the other purpose of the book, the human trafficking. The conversion of the protagonist, or one of the protagonists, is both sudden and unconvincing; the latter is not because of the former, for it can happen that people are quickly, almost without explanation, converted (C.S. Lewis is a well known example), but there is always some background to it, which simply doesn't happen here. Furthermore, once the conversion has happened, it doesn't seem real, it creates no conflict in his life, no difficulties, real or imagined, with his previous circle, no struggles to work through and accept the implications of what he has done.

This, though, is of less concern to me than Dial's belief that her end of exposing human trafficking justifies the means of poor writing which is displayed here. The action is not believable at several points; coincidences are relied on heavily (two characters fall into a tiger pit while running from a tiger; they are only able to escape the pit when the tiger also falls into the pit, caught and partially strangled by a vine, so they can clamber up its body!); characters act in a manner which seems to be contrary to their essential nature as previously revealed; and the happy ending is not only no surprise, but also rather unlikely and, in mine opinion, not likely to last.

In a way, i am disappointed to have to feel and sound so harsh about The Lotus Keeper, as the subjects the book raises are vital; trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children (of anyone; why does “of children” make it worse?) are awful, factual, and must be tackled in the world, both by politicians and by ordinary people. It's just a shame that Dial hasn't chosen a different way to tackle it, as this novel is not convincing as literature, so does not carry conviction about its subject matter.

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