A Critical Review by Ned B. Johnson

By and large this book is a creditable first novel. The storyline is imaginative, the main characters well developed, easy to care about, and credible. That having been said, I did see a few problems that I believe really should be addressed before publication.

The most significant of these relates to what I fear readers are likely to see as a heavy-handedness in the treatment of the subject of dignity and other concepts derived from and related to it. Although these discourses—which were most often monologues—were spread throughout the entire book, not everyone will find them fascinating. Andrew’s initial reaction (which was less than enthusiastic) is the kind of response I would expect to see from many readers.

The real question is whether readers will, like Andrew, become more and more intrigued until at last they are deeply moved. You certainly show them how to do that through the characters and story. But will they follow that path as Andrew did? I am afraid you may have asked a little more of them than they will be willing to deliver. I certainly can’t be sure about that, and I would love to be wrong.

The solution, as I see it, and assuming there is a need for a solution, would be to combine and/or compress some of the soliloquies so as to make them less frequent, and of a shorter duration. I am well aware that one of the main purposes of this book is to introduce the reader to the concepts of dignity, integrity, freedom, etc. I am also convinced that a great many readers could benefit from such an introduction. My only concern is that the overall presentation of this dimension of the work may be overwhelming or off-putting to too many readers.

On the positive side, you spaced the philosophical segments out quite nicely, and generally made sense with them. You developed and presented your ideas logically. Although some of your reasoning may not have been air tight, I doubt it matters to the reader. Few people are trained in the finer points of logic and philosophical discourse.

I was also impressed with the way the plot flowed from scene to scene. Many people, including some writers, don’t appreciate how important and challenging this aspect of writing fiction is. The only complaint I have is, as stated above, that the pacing seemed to drag now and then. For the most part, however, you kept things moving right along. In fact, toward the very end, I found myself being carried right along and not wanting to stop until I saw how things turned out.

Does it keep you interested?

My interest was held for three different reasons at various points in the narrative. At first, I simply wondered about your writing. Who were your characters and what were they about? Later, I began to see that you were going to present me with a variety of unexpected situations, not all of them “sunshine and roses.” At this stage, I began to look forward to what kind of plot twist you were going to come up with next. The third reason for developing interest  was because of caring about the characters. The most obvious examples would be the relationship between Sam and Andrew, and between Andrew and his “Princess.” This dimension reached its peak at the very end of the story, as big issues were being resolved.

(P.S. thank you very much for bringing the little boy who had been injured back into the story before it was over. I would have felt very incomplete if I never learned his fate. Even more so with our Native American heroine.)

Was “first love” part realistic and touchy?

Actually, that was one aspect that did cause me to stop and think—not about this book, but about the episodes in my own youth that it reminded me of. It was nice to have the opportunity to revisit my own life at that age, and to be able to see it as I did then (through Andrew’s eyes), and to also be able to view it with all that I’ve learned since. Thanks for giving me the chance to do that.

As to its being realistic, I think that would depend on the reader’s own point of view. For myself, I don’t recall ever feeling like it was “phony” or “cliché.” In the end, when not only she but her mother turned out to be such staunch allies, I found much of that portion both moving and touching, but without overt sentimentality.

Was dignity concept appear somehow new to you?

The particular way in which dignity was connected with the several other concepts was novel to me. The basic ideas involved were not as new to me, but I’m sure they would be to most people. Clearly the amount of time and energy you have expended in developing such intimacy with these concepts, especially dignity itself, is far greater than most people every commit to anything of that type. I also know how hard it is to weave all those disparate ideas into one cohesive conceptual framework, and then present it. I think you did quite well at that.

What about Sam’s “financial terms” as related to dignity concept?

I have no problem with that personally, nor would I expect a lot of people to do so. In fact, people seem to find it easier to visualize value in terms of money than any other way.

Do you like Sam’s concept of dignity as person’s value and price?

I find it a bit foreign to the mainstream of my own personal philosophical framework. There was a time when it would have been far more appealing to me, even exciting. Since then, I have been drawn in other directions—not so much contradictory to your views, but more of a shifting of emphasis and perspective. For example, take “integrity.”

To me, integrity is very important. However, I use the word quite literally. I see integrity as a state of integration, where all the multitudinous layers of the self are all working together harmoniously. When integrity is less than ideal, portions of the personality are at adds with each other. Conflict arises, and continues until peace breaks out from this internal friction. There is more, but I think you can see how this example demonstrates my earlier comment about emphasis and perspective versus contradiction.

The idea of “human market” -how do you like it?

I have always liked the concept of an open market, no matter which dimension of human experience provides the stage. Your use of the idea fit nicely into the larger complex of ideas of which it was a supporting player.

Who would be the reader?

It seems clear to me that there are a very large number of people in our world who could benefit from reading this book… those people who are ready to change their thinking, to increase their own dignity.

Overall opinion of the genre?

This is a fairly new approach to fiction, and few have made credible attempts to reach the level of success that “mainstream” writers do.

…  “self-help fiction”.

Personally, I believe that it is an idea whose time has come, and that idea is that people find it easier to really engage with new and potentially powerful ideas when they are presented in the context of good story, with empathetic and realistic characters through whose lives to see the new perspectives brought to life.

This is in essence what it seems to me you have done. It is a time honored technique, but the messages to be delivered nowadays are quite different from those of the past. Compare your message with that of Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead. In some ways very similar, but taken whole, very different.

Conclusions

You have a fine little novel here. It should be readable by your intended market, and has a storyline that, though it drags in places, largely moves the reader along fast enough to make it interesting.

In any event, the book left me better than it found me, and that is not always so true. I wish you all success in this and your other adventures.

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