Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars
Fredrik Brouneus’ new young adult novel is short on preaching and long on sassy dialog and rollicking action. Built on a framework of Buddhist reincarnation principles, the book is both simple and profound. Throw in zombies, romance, and a smart-mouth hero with a wicked wit, and you’ve got a metaphysical thriller that both delights and inspires.
Story: What happens when we die? I know what happens. Believe me, I’d rather not. But I do. There is a lighthouse, and it guides our souls along the narrow path to being reborn as humans. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as my undead granddad and the Tibetan special mission monk in my kitchen have kindly told me, there’s a problem with the lighthouse. And if the world is to be saved, someone needs to fix it. Which is where I come in: George Larson, eighteen years old. Who could possibly be better suited to save the world? (Condensed from book jacket.)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: Medium. In New Zealand, 18-year-old George meets a Tibetan monk named Tenzin who helps him “stretch his brain” to contain the spiritual truths he must rediscover in order to succeed at his mission. Brouneus employs concrete, accessible metaphors to clarify complex concepts such as reincarnation, suffering, and impermanence: Existence is a long, bumpy road trip in which your soul drives its car into the ground and then moves to the next, aeon after aeon. Death is merely a pit-stop to refuel and switch cars before hitting the road again. When we die, ”we will be recycled as atoms and molecules — immortal parts of the big LEGO box Mother Nature has to play with.” The concepts are basic, but the metaphors are a perfect introduction to metaphysics for the novice seeker or zombie-obsessed teenager.
My take: Nonstop action drives The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse. However, George’s guide, Tenzin, provides welcome pacing and colorful characterization as he teaches George how to make decisions based on spiritual principles. Some plot twists may ask readers to stretch their brains a synapse too far, such as connecting jingoism, prayer and the Internet. But the way Brouneus weaves character and action into a cohesive story that spans centuries makes such missteps merely a pothole that you speed past. Zombies, romance, hilarious asides, a little bloodlust, and plenty of relevant cultural references appeal to younger readers, while the spiritual and metaphysical theme satisfies those seeking a more profound experience. Read it as a YA thriller or a short spiritual novel; either way, you’ll be glad you did.
The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse, by Fredrik Brouneus
Published by Steampress, 2012
Paperback, 292 pages
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