Note: The Author Visits received an ARC for Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance in exchange for an unbiased review.
Reviewed by Allen Crowley on behalf of The Author Visits
Dr. Pip Lipkin has lived for 12,000 years, incarnated many times as man, woman, and even as species beyond our world and senses. But he's here for a reason: to pay restitution for an ancient crime by working to save humanity from certain destruction. "Ascending Spiral" is a book that will take the reader to many different places and times, showing, ultimately, that our differences and divisions, even at their most devastating, are less important than our similarities.
In Ascending Spiral: Humanity's Last Chance, Dr. Bob Rich takes on an ambitious project in the tradition of The Bhagavad Gita, The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales, Of Cabbages and Kings, and Nine Stories. Indeed the author combines elements of each of these. The additional promise to bring in science fiction elements makes the scope of the novel truly grand.
The premise intrigues. “Dr. Pip Lipkin has lived for 12,000 years, incarnated many times as man, woman, and even as species beyond our world and senses. But he's here for a reason: to pay restitution for an ancient crime by working to save humanity from certain destruction. Ascending Spiral is a book that will take the reader to many different places and times, showing, ultimately, that our differences and divisions, even at their most devastating, are less important than our similarities.”
Fans of speculative fiction, who look for a consistent philosophical integration in storytelling, will not find it in this book. That does not mean the novel is without merit or that it should be avoided simply because it aims high and fails to hit the mark. Lovers of reincarnation stories and believers in new age mythology will find this story appealing.
The author gives us stories of past lives and at the conclusion of each a spiritual guide encapsulates the lessons for the reader. The stories begin concretely and become more abstract as the book progresses. Starting with human experience of male and female characters and progressing to life as a sentient plant on another world and a creature that travels space from star to star. The culminating incarnation and the voice of the book is Dr. Lipkin.
Dr. Rich creates good narrative for his vignettes. At times the narrative feels flat, but this is the flatness of a mesa rather than a plain. The author occasionally provides as much intensity to walking down the path as he does to the subsequent ambush. On occasion the author provides beautiful imagery, showing that reality holds beauty when we choose to look. Unfortunately, the beauty of reality escapes emphasis in the character’s syllabus.
The changing point of view entails some backtracking and jumping around the galaxy and occasionally the coherency of the narrative suffers. The pacing varies, action packed at times, glacial at others, each well done. The misstep lies in the pacing not matching the plot and in this way too, the story suffers.
The reader will need to bring their own analytical tools to derive lessons from the stories. The spiritual guide avoids boring the reader with complex philosophical or ethical derivation for the lessons and moves directly to providing banal conclusions. In spite of entertaining stories and concise conclusions the author builds no grand spiral of steps for the reader to ascend.
The culminating life of Dr. Pip Lipkin is a mix of concrete details and new age fantasy resulting in the recommendation from this “Buddhist Jew” that the reader follow Jesus, though this is operationally defined as living a little less to atone for the sin of living at all. In the conclusion the author’s message becomes fully disclosed.
My rating: 3 stars.
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