Alternate reality? Epic myth? or sheer entertainment?
This is an amazing and truly unique work. It is, if you like, an alternate history of an alternate Earth. As in much science fiction, our hero can conveniently understand every being he overhears; as in some modern plays, there are anachronisms; as in Shakespeare, everything is in iambic pentameter – and rhyming couplets to boot.
You will not be bored. It is also a good story, well told. As always, look up any word you’re not absolutely sure of. This author has a wide range of knowledge and sprinkles neat, obscure, and entirely appropriate words in what passes for a simple narrative. The versification is more like Robert Service’s narratives, telling a tale well. The repetitive rhyme scheme is so cleverly done that you will enjoy some of the harder rhymes.
Gunn has provided us with a classic mythological journey in the Joseph Campbell sense. In this world, humanity is not the dominant species. The apes are. They set out on a quest from Eden in search of God. The evolution of humanity has taken a different course. This is not our world, but much of our world’s philosophy is known here.
As an example of the whimsy in this unique volume, here the ‘author’ explains why a creator must exist: “Consider trees: Were trees one foot in height,/ how could we build our nests up high at night?/ Or fingernails: exactly where they ought /to grow. Without them, how could fleas be caught? /There’s no place on us where a flea can go /that can’t be scratched with finger or with toe; /so even we were planned, in each detail, /to be ourselves, from brain to fingernail. /This couldn’t all be chance. Please understand /this world did not ‘just happen’–it was planned ! This proves– /(He paused to puzzle through his scroll) /–that all these things are under God’s control!”
If you’re looking for raw humour, try this: “… When he sought /suggestions from the magic Scroll he’d brought, /he found that tribal wags, with peerless wit, /had rolled Repugnant Matter up in it. /We’d known he had a flair for words. Now he /displayed a talent for profanity.”
If you’re looking for the tiny carps, they are few. There might be one or two close rhymes (everything else is perfect.) There might be a typo or two. In a work of this size, these are ridiculously small carps. Back to the book, where the undaunted apes continue their quest: “Our leader called the Tribe in council, then/ (or what was left of it). He spoke again /of Pithecanic Destiny and such. /Our current woes, he said, were nothing much.”
There is an alternate version of heaven, expounded by a devil: “”I can’t describe the sense of uselessness /you’d feel, if you’d attained Eternal Bliss. /You sing the praise of God, but when you’re through /there’s simply no constructive work to do.”
There are strange moral questions too, as in this: “My expertise in teaching Virtue should /not be construed to mean I must be Good. /We Teachers only practice what we preach /when teaching student teachers how to teach!”
As for theology, Gunn has a mermaid priestess utter these words: “A god comes into being at the whim /of those with genuine belief in him /so there’s a mutual dependency /between believers and their deity.” Buy this book and read the rest of this passage slowly when you get to it; it’s a lot of fun and questions belief while also supporting it.
In the final third of the book, Gunn gives us a version of Satan’s temptation. Again, this is lightly done, cleverly disguising the careful thought and provocative content in a deceptively simple narrative. For example, the satanic figure claims, ‘my cause is just.’ You will laugh, and then be startled by what you are laughing at. The book ends with an epic battle between the apes and the underlord’s horde. No spoilers here; again, buy the book and just read and enjoy it.
Why five stars?
My personal guidelines, when doing an ‘official’ KBR review, are as follows: five stars means, roughly equal to best in genre. Rarely given. Four stars means, extremely good. Three stars means, definitely recommendable. I am a tough reviewer. Usually assigning the star count is the hardest part of a review, but in this case, it was the easiest. Gunn easily rates five stars. Trying to give you an appreciation for this work was the hard part, and I hope to have done an acceptable job. Extremely recommended.
Jim Bennett, Kindle Book Review Team member.
(Note: this reviewer received a free copy of this book for an independent review. He is not associated with the author or Amazon.)