The Forgotten Self

Author: William Marshall
Contact Publishing
RRP: 9.99, US $18.76
ISBN-13: 978 0 9547 0202 1
ISBN-10: 0 9547020 2 6
Available 31 October 2005

In 1990 an extraordinary child is born, to an ordinary couple. From an early age it is obvious to those around him that Sean Bowden is different, it is a difference which will change perceptions of reality and elevated the human race into their proper place in the cosmos...

This isn't just a novel but a book with an agenda. Author William Marshall takes chunks of modern spiritualism, old style sixties mind expansion and quasimessianic rescue fantasies to put forward the idea that reality is much more than we see and that the answer to the worlds troubles lie within all of us, if only we are willing to make the step towards a form of shared godhood.

Nothing wrong with that, if you know where the author is coming from. All of the above elements have appeared in science fiction writing since the turn of the nineteenth century, sometimes as individual elements, or as in this case as a combination of ideas. The Forgotten Self owes a debt especially to Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) with whom it shares many of the same thematic concepts and structure. Both deal with a being whose altered state of consciousness and higher awareness of reality challenge his contemporaries view of their place in the world and both use a lot of Christian iconography as a way of placating the natural human fear of death and extinction.

One of the problems I did have with the book may speak more about my own sensibilities than that of the authors. Early on in the book Marshall establishes his protagonist, Sean Bowden's, messianic otherness by having him rescue his parents from disaster. Nothing wrong with that, it's an accepted literary motif that has shown up in many stories, even Superman saves his father from being crushed by a tractor. So, with endless possibilities to choose from it was a little uncomfortable to have Sean save his father from the terrorist attack on the twin towers and both his parents from the devastating tsunami. Maybe, the deaths of so many, in such tragic circumstances, are too fresh in the collective consciousness to be used in such a work of fiction; I'll leave that up to the reader to decide where they stand on this point. For myself, it made for uncomfortable reading.

Putting aside Marshall's, no doubt honest, desire to illuminate the world with his own philosophical truth and the oft times preachy feel of the narrative, the novel has many things to recommend it. Marshall writes well, within the confines of a linear structure. He demonstrates both a good feeling for characterisation and character development. And, even if you think that the ideas behind the book are a load of old tosh, at least Marshall has got you thinking, something which far too few book attempt to do these days.

The book is well worth a chunk of your valuable time. You may not agree with the ideas which underpin the narrative, but that's ok. Marshall would not be the first author with an agenda, who knows if he is as successful as Ron L. Hubbard he might find a new generation of acolytes to follow his teachings, stranger things have happened.

Charles Packer

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