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Reality's Dawn -- a book review
Aurora
tree_lady
This is the same review that I just posted to Amazon. R. L. Copple is a member of the Lost Genre Guild

(Beware: minor spoilers may be present.)

Reality’s Dawn is a fantasy novel constructed of a series of linked stories and introduced with a framing story the events of which occur perhaps ten years later than the rest of the book. The linked novel is suitable for adults and most mature young adults. I put in the caveat, because violence occurs in many of the stories; however, the violence is necessary to the plot since the main character is a kind of healer. There is no foul language and only the most minimal sexual situations.

The author of the novel is a Christian. Many discussions amongst characters and circumstances in the stories involve faith, repentance, charity, service to God and to His creatures, and other Christian truths. A discerning reader can draw spiritual nourishment from virtually every story. On the other hand, it’s possible that young readers may not always be cognizant of the spiritual nature of the struggles through which the characters are working, and will read the stories for the sake of the often exciting adventures.

Leaving aside the framing story, we follow a young man named Sisko from the time he is 15 and experiences a strange and life-altering events in the village steam house until he is about 20 years old.

While in this mystical steam house, Sisko observes how its mysterious forces affect a number of people—in some cases seeming to provide “poetic justice” style fates for those who have spiritual failings while more occasionally magically helping those who are decent people but who need help of some sort. Sisko stays longer in the building than most of the others, so he not only observes a lot but he also is moved to try warning some of the steam bathers of their danger. Evidently, his urge to help those around him is partially instrumental in the gift that the steam house gives him—a ring which permits him to heal others—as long as the healing is the will of God.

Sisko comes to realize that he is now “married to God” in some mystical way and that he now has a mission to perform, or a calling if you will. This gift/sacred responsibility ultimately nudges him out of the comfort zone of his family, away from his best friend, and out of his village after evil people attempt to put pressure on him by terrorizing his family.

Naïve and open-hearted at the beginning of the book, Sisko matures via the various exciting adventures and often painful trials he experiences. But the author doesn’t take an easy and straight path, showing Sisko growing at the same pace over the years. The young man faces challenges that set him on his heels at times.  Without giving away too much, I hope, we watch as Sisko begins to take his gift for granted and watch as he is warned, does a course correction or two, and yet still stumbles with remembering who he is and what his part is in God’s great scheme of life.

My only objection to his part in the whole tale was toward the end when, according to the author’s interpretation, Sisko messes up while out in the desert. That’s all I’ll say about it. Who knows? If I went into detail about this, I’d not only ruin an integral part of the story but probably find I’m in a wee small minority amongst readers in my interpretation of what happens. ... So moving on. (Is that mysterious enough for you?)

Sisko also finds love in a fairly unexpected place. While I like the character with whom he falls in love, I do have reservations about how even minimal physical contact between the two is handled. No, it’s not even PG-rated, so please don’t misinterpret this! The best way I can describe the results of the two principals touching is as a kind of electric charge with a strong case a mind-melding between them. Whoa! Really? Now this is probably mostly a fault in me that I didn’t care for it. On the other hand, maybe Mr. Copple is just far and away more of a romantic than I am. If so, good for him!

As I said a series of stories as chapters are taken together to form the novel. Although Reality’s Dawn isn’t an anthology per se—the stories are chronologically arranged and heavily linked with each other—it does bare many resemblances to an anthology. Because of this, I had the strong temptation to try rating the stories the way I might in a true anthology. I almost succumbed to this, until I realized that I was ranking every story between Very Good and Excellent. Not overly helpful, huh? Besides, even if there were a terrible story or two in the book—which there isn’t—you would still need to read them all in order to follow Sisko’s experiences and the way he is changed by them.

Instead, let’s discuss favorite characters. Josh is Sisko’s friend whom he’s known since long before the steam house incident. He’s an aspiring wizard, who occasionally goofs up his magic, and this creates some of the early humor and exciting adventures for the two. I particularly like the tale which begins with the pair of them trying to dodge the pain at the dentist, only to fall into the clutches of… Well you’ll find out. When Sisko realizes that he needs to leave his home village, it’s Josh who creates a kind of telepathic link between them. It’s a very clever idea, and my only problem with it is that it’s under-utilized, especially early in Sisko’s adventures when it might have been the springboard for additional humor. Still, no biggie. More importantly, Mr. Copple dodged the bullet of the deus ex machina that lurked because of this magical connection between friends.

In large part, the character of Seth stands in for Josh later in the story—after a particularly rocky beginning to their relationship. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Seth grow and change as he comes to understand why Sisko does what he does, and ultimately Who it is that he works for. Seth is truly a stand-up guy, and it did my heart good to watch him buy a clue.

St Valentine makes an appearance, which was just ducky since I read this book within days of St Valentine’s Day. He’s not “on stage” for long and while he’s a great character, I’m afraid he’s upstaged by his surroundings. How could he not be, when he’s hanging out on the edge of Paradise? The location and the character together—along with what Sisko is going through at the time—makes for a very cool series of scenes, some of my favorites in the book.

I didn’t much care for Fensoow, a wizard lurking deep in the Forever Forest. However, I think that’s just me. Something about the combination of Caterpillar from Alice in Wonderland, Yoda from Star Wars (Ep. 5), the sensei in the original Karate Kid, and a philosophy professor I used to know just didn’t work for me. Probably the philosophy professor is at fault. I’m as sure as Dunkin’ makes Donuts that other people will just love Fansoow.

On the other hand, I really liked the genie-like Josh, with his heavenly tea and his well-deserved irascibility and the way he drags Sisko into a contest that wasn’t such a great idea for either one of them. He is one of the most-rounded characters in the book even though he appears in only one story. I wish we could have seen much more of him.

And, while I’m wishing, I wish there could have been more stories!

But for more stories by Mr. Copple, see his "Ethereal Worlds", which contains both SF & fantasy stories.

My Amazon review appears below:

Ethereal Worlds - review

 SF Stories:

Spaced Out -- Ah, Starry & Tramal are at it again, as they work under the auspices of POoP (don't ask).  At least , I hope they will be at it again.

 Monkey Madness, The Captain's Chair, Cold Truth, & Space Talk -- four short funny pieces with hidden zingers, that may qualify as flash fiction (Or not? probably a tad too long).

 For fans of Moth Man(!), there's Ship to Ship Rumors. (You remember Rumors--he's a cousin of the Joker, I think.)

 I really loved Father Jonah & the Renegade, which reminded me a bit of an alternative universe Star Wars (Ep.4). I hope Mr. Copple returns to this world and these characters, and maybe even develops a novel based on them.

 Justice in the Balance, like Father Jonah, left me wanting more from the characters and the situation. I'd welcome additional stories or even a novel based on the premise.

 I liked Weapons of War, too. Just love it when people fool around with time and space--fictionally that is.

  

Fantasy Stories:

 Dragon Stew is an intricate and fascinating story, though I got a bit lost occasionally trying to keep the characters straight. No, Mr. Copple, I didn't try your challenge at the end of the tale, though I may give it a shot in the future. Clever idea, though!

 Facing the Cave is an exciting bit of allegory--which is something since much allegory lacks excitement.

 Marvelous Man is great fun, and should appeal to anyone who--when they were young--fantisized that they were someone else or some place else. (Yup. That includes me.) Loved "Henry".

 Carpool answers the question, How could rush hour be any worse? Well, the answer's in the movie, man! Come on!

 The Peasant's Rule was one of my favorites. It's a kind of strange take on a certain fairy tale, but for a slightly older audience. I like playing over in my thoughts how this one works out.

 I liked Baby Truth--which is weird since I would really hate the reality. Shiver!

 Can I be the baker in Shake, Rattle and Roll? I'd like to think I could turn out a Peasant's Rule type ending. On the other hand, probably not.

 I know I've read Clever Love before. I assume Mr. Copple sent me a copy once. Anyway, fun reading it again. The ending is particularly satisfying as should be the case with all good fairy tales.

 


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Any story that can get past the Tree Lady must be worth it's ink and parchment :-)

I couldn't help hearing that song Cisco Kid by War in my head while reading this, though...

:-)

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