Book review: Sowing the Seeds of Karma

Our forests have been ravaged. Wars are breaking out across the planet. And one man must cleanse the world of its corruption before time runs out.
THOUGHT-PROVOKING: "Sowing the Seeds of Karma",  Jon Lewis-Fallows debut novel.THOUGHT-PROVOKING: "Sowing the Seeds of Karma",  Jon Lewis-Fallows debut novel.
THOUGHT-PROVOKING: "Sowing the Seeds of Karma", Jon Lewis-Fallows debut novel.

In Jon Lewis-Fallows’ debut novel, “Sowing the seeds of karma”, one citizen, protagonist John Smith, has been chosen to visit a utopian world and bring home a solution that will help to save the planet. While it may nod towards sci-fi, let me warn you, this is not the kind of book to read for light-hearted escape after a hard day’s work. It’s gritty, it’s fierce and it’s thought-provoking.

Smith, the protagonist, is an everyday man who is as cynical as he is self-critical. In need of a resolute hero, a world blighted by fear and ignorance has picked, apparently, the wrong man for the job.

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Through Smith, Lewis-Fallows captures the anxieties of readers marginalised by the setup of society and offers satirical images of 21st Century life, with all its baffling paradoxes and ironies. Smith’s is a world, for example, that is hyper-connected and overpopulated; and yet its people are terrified of human engagement. In one particular scene, a swarm of passengers on a train platform push past each other, unable to make eye contact. This, therefore, is a world of individuals or, ironically, “zombies” driven solely by their wants; and this is a book powerfully capturing its audience’s ultimate fear: a highly connected world with total ignorance between its inhabitants.

Don’t therefore let the novel’s plot, of a man on a quest, deceive you. You see, we have before us no ordinary hero. A complex character, Smith is an honest man of wit and intelligence but an anti-hero who despises his fellow beings. By creating a flawed and relatable protagonist, the author triumphantly challenges the conventions of heroism.

I have to say, the ideals of the novel, and its arguments, continued to resonate with me after I’d finished the last page. Like many skilful authors, Jon Lewis-Fallow understands the power of proverb, and his is a style echoing that of a friend imparting wisdom onto the other, one which is encapsulated in lines such as: “Behaviour breeds behaviour” or “the challenge is the reward”.

And so, while Lewis-Fallows weaves together satire and sci-fi to create an imaginative and thoughtful novel, the book’s ultimate strength, if I had to pick only one, is the conversational tone. It’s a voice that’s funny, honest and challenging, like that of a friend with whom, forgetting the time, you’ve put the world to rights.

(Artemis Publishers Ltd, £8.99)

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