Book Review – 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus

1491

I recently finished Charles Mann’s book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus and wanted to do a quick book review.

As the title indicates, this is a book about what the civilizations of the American continent were like before Columbus arrived. The book is based on the most current research on the subject, though I must warn you that even our best most recent research seems quite tentative to me, as the author often admits. But here are some interesting new directions that seem worthy of note.

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Book Review: “Heroes of the Fallen” by David J. West

[Cross Posted from Sixteen Small Stones]

I don’t typically read LDS Fiction.  A lot of it just doesn’t appeal much to me.  Those few books that do draw my attention are often either, in my estimation, much too preachy, superficial, and emotionally manipulative on the one hand or on the other veer off into apostasy in order to be edgy, artistic, intellectual, and morally nuanced. Blech.

However, contrary to my usual interests, last month I picked up a newly released book by David J. West entitled Heroes of the Fallen.  I had run across West’s blog a few months earlier, and I had been following his posts.  I knew that he was an aspiring LDS author, but I hadn’t followed his blog closely enough to realize that he had a book about to be published.  When he announced it’s release, I was intrigued by what I had already gathered from his blog.  So I headed over to the local bookstore where he was doing a book signing and purchased an author-signed copy. I finished Heroes of the Fallen in about a week.

The book is set in the ancient America of the Book of Mormon, around 320 or so years A.D.  This setting is both a benefit and a challenge for the author.  West benefits from a pre-existing setting, complete with unusual names and places, a history, language, political system, and religious beliefs.  My favorite fantasy writers, like J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander, drew upon the histories, myths, and legends of the ancient civilizations with which they were familiar, borrowing names, plots, archetypes, and themes in order to lend weight and coherence to their works.  In some ways, Heroes of the Fallen benefits similarly from the Book of Mormon.  By adapting and extrapolating from the Book of Mormon, West is able to concentrate on filling in the details and bringing to life a fully-realized, exotic, ancient civilization without having to invent it whole-cloth.

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