Review: “A Stimulating Fantasy”
“Verus, the main character, is a street beggar who speaks only Latin and claims
to be an ancient Roman. The sophisticated Verus, through a fortuitous
a high school Latin teacher who becomes his translator, quickly becomes known
to a curious wider world and an assortment of Latin-speaking intellectuals.
Although set in the future, the novel features characters that seem
realistically historic, including Pope Innocent XIV and Gregory. Gregory,
a Catholic monk and a top official in the Vatican, is a closet atheist.
The dialogue between Verus, Gregory, Innocent, and others propels the plot
While the story line is clearly a fantasy, this isn't so much a fantasy novel
as a fanciful, yet serious meditation ... The reader is prompted to
contemplate the structure of human values, human motivations,
and especially, human potential.
The theme of
the novel seems to be that all moral corruptions are equally vicious. But
can they be overcome? Can an uncorrupt homo mirabilis be created?
That's the question with which Verus and his interlocutors wrestle,
certainly a timely
thought to ponder. It's the basis for a fast-paced plot that reprises the
contest between Athens and Jerusalem, between reason and faith /.../
The novel's undertone is clear: our future will be coarse and brutal to the
degree we remain polarized and uncompromising. Since neither God nor science
nor politics can explain all things, we have one big choice in life: whether
or not to trust one another.
If all this seems heavy going, it's not. The
story is written in an uncluttered style reminiscent of Ursula LeGuin, but
with a sharper, more satirical edge. For example, the voluptuous Bibi keeps
the high-minded philosophical discussions between the male characters grounded
in base human instinct, a nod no doubt to the temptations to which
contemporary political and religious impresarios so easily succumb.
The characters are rich, vibrant, and contemporary, as well as historically
realistic. The moral debates are deep, yet accessible and escapist. Verus is
a rewarding book that should appeal to readers who enjoy a thought-stimulating
5.0 out of 5 stars,
Amazon.ca customer review
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