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Rich, Viking Adventure
"West Oversea" is a fantastic book and deserves to be one of many in a long series. Men like Erling Skjalgsson ought to spring readily to mind when men and boys think of heroes from the past. The story begins strong; the conflict which prompts Erling to sail west comes upfront. New problems emerge along the way, both small and large, and just when you start to wonder if the heroes will ever return home, the battle flames hot again.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
"West Oversea" is written within a beautifully rich framework. It is like an actor who does not break his character, even when everyone else goes off-script. Several decisions the characters make are not fully explained to the modern reader, making the story more believable and less of a teaching tool. So many Christian works of fiction seem to want to teach more than tell a story, but if they were to follow Shakespeare's example, much as this novel does, their stories would be better and their readers may have more to talk about. I'm thinking of how Hamlet dies at the end of his play, not because it's more dramatic for him to bite it along with the others, but for the sake of justice. He had murdered Polonius, therefore his life was justly forfeit-a life for a life unjustly taken, the essence of capital punishment. Does Shakespeare ever spell that out to us? No.
In a similar way, Walker's tale has characters acting within their worldviews and not necessarily talking it through for the reader's sake. That may be the narrative style. Father Aillil, who relates the adventure to us, does not wallow in his emotions, even when he is deeply stirred. He gives us no soliloquy on the merits of living as Hamlet does. Many times, he merely acts.
But the theme of the book is not at all opaque. Erling speaks it clearly in the beginning when he must decide how to deal with the overarching conflict of the book. "One kind of right is simple. You do what the law says. You keep your vows though it beggars you. The other kind of right is knottier. It means asking what action will bring the best fruit. . . . Looking at it that way, a man might persuade himself it was right to break the law; right to break his vows."
Is there a good cause greater than one's duty to the law? Yes, if the law is unjust, but how much does it take for a man to argue the injustice of inconvenient law? That is Erling's position. He says, "I think any crime and dishonor might be justified" once a man allows himself to believe his desired end is the greater good.
Posted August 16, 2010
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