Sunday, 30 November 2014

Book review - Alouette's Song, by Andrew Jonathan Fine


Inspirational fiction is traditionally couched in terms of a romance, with an occasional mystery. Alouette's Song is the first I've seen that combines inspirational with traditional science fiction. It should be an encouragement to anyone who'd like to write inspirational fiction but doesn't want to fit into the usual romance mould.

Viewed as science fiction, it's a strong piece of work, very much in the tradition of the early Heinlein. Purely on this basis I feel sure the book will find an enthusiastic readership. It's exciting, it keeps moving and it resolves very nicely.

Read as inspirational fiction, though, Alouette's Song really shines. Perhaps because that's a genre that appeals more to me, or perhaps because inspirational/SF combination is rare, or perhaps because it's so nice to see inspirational fiction based on a faith other than Christianity, but none of these things fully accounts for my reaction to it. It's a deeply moving and informed story of a young man's struggles with an aspect of his religion, and very, very well done. Although not Jewish myself, I found a great deal of it personally relevant and helpful. I honestly can't recommend the book enough on this basis.

I did have a couple of criticisms. I felt the four young protagonists were a little too perfect; a bit too superhumanly good and self disciplined and moral, a bit too wise for their ages. This was particularly the case with the violinist. There were times when I really wanted to hit her with a brick.

The other criticism I would make is that I felt there were too many technical terms used without explanation. Writing for a wide readership, one can't assume anything about the reader's education level. In particular the science was over my head. In a traditional science fiction work, of course, this is often the case, and one has to cut writers a bit of slack in that genre as it is sometimes not completely avoidable. However, the combination of this with some technical terms of Jewish practice that I also did not understand, and then the bowling terms - the combined effect of science, Judaism and bowling did leave me feeling like 'Geez, am I really that dumb?' Of course, if one is aiming at a particular readership, some of these concerns won't apply, but a reading population of people who understand all three of science, Judaism and bowling would be, I felt, a little narrow and I would have liked to see the Judaism and bowling made a little more accessible to the general reading public.

Over against this, I absolutely loved the use of the multiple points of view with first person. It was very well executed, and almost never did I need to flip back to check who was speaking. I particularly liked the way the villain was portrayed, saving him from being a cardboard villain.

Overall, I liked Alouette's Song very, very much and I look forward to seeing more from this talented author.

Alouette's Song is available from AMAZON.

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