Wednesday, October 1, 2008

What If....?

by Steve N. Lee
Blue Zoo
Reviewed by Melissa

Ideals and philosophies are a good thing. Especially when they involve the good of humanity, and how the world could be a better place. I'm all for that. I believe in a lot of things -- peace, love, and harmony among them. I'm essentially a pacifist by nature, unless I'm really provoked, and then I always feel badly after I lose my temper. I believe that miracles can, and do, happen. I believe that -- to an extent -- corporate America is corrupt, and that the real power of change lies with each individual making choices apart from those that corporate America gives us. I believe in a religion, but I also believe that religion can be a tool to exclude others, and that's wrong. I'm always ashamed when people who profess themselves to be Christian act against what I believe Christianity is. I try to be tolerant and open-minded about religions other than my own.

Why do I say all that? Well, because What if...? is essentially a musing on a philosophy -- a liberal, pacifist, open-minded, anti-corporate philosophy at that -- disguised as a thriller novel. I wanted to get down that I basically agree with the sentiment behind the novel... because the novel itself just doesn't work.

The story starts with Mary, a 36-year-old agnostic single journalist, getting in a car crash on Christmas Eve. It's a bad wreck, and no one expects her to live, yet she does. Because John, a vagrant, stops by and heals her. Thoroughly -- not just from the life-threatening injuries -- but also from the incurable diabetes she has. This shakes the foundation of her life, and she sets about trying to figure out if John's for real, decides that he is, falls in love with him, and they set out healing terminally ill people all over the country. This sets off a chain of events that essentially tell the story of modern America: greed (on the part of people trying to buy him off), cynicism (those who don't believe in his ability), and indignation (on the part of the Catholic Church; healing's their domain), among others. John tries to battle against these, remaining altruistic in his beliefs, but because we are who we are as a country, he ultimately fails. (Oops, sorry, gave away the ending.)

The problem isn't so much the story but the fact that it felt that the philosophy came first and that Lee was trying to fit a story to the philosophy. The dialogue was didactic, and felt forced, as if these words aren't what the characters should really be saying. I didn't care too much about them, either; the impression I came away with was that the philosophy, the ideas, were more important than anything that could possibly happen to the characters. I enjoy reading books that have a plot and some character development first, and perhaps get a life lesson or two off on the side. Not the other way around.

That's not to say this book isn't for anyone. Who knows? It might just change the way you look at the world. That is, if you can get through it first.

1 comment:

Steve N. Lee said...

Hi Melissa,

I'm sorry you didn't like my book, but then, you can't please everyone and you'd be a fool to think you can, wouldn't you?

I assure you that the story was important to me. The story and character development ALWAYS came first, as they should in any good novel. The last thing I tried to do was force an ideology upon my characters and, thereby, upon my readers.

In order to develop the characters properly, the issues on human rights and the environment, etc, needed to be incorporated. Without those the central character simply wouldn't have rung true. That was how the philosophy came about, not the other way around.

I can also assure you that it's receiving VERY positive reviews elsewhere - those on my website are genuine. Here's a couple of links to prove it:

(In fact, the writer of that second review has put 'What if...?' in her top ten books of 2008! Check her recent post.)

I'm really sorry you didn't enjoy my work, but I knew I'd have to get a bad review sooner or later.

Steve N. Lee
author of eco-blog
and suspense thriller 'What if...?'