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.
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.
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)