2 out of 4 stars
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Have we outgrown religion? Is the legacy of religion as a whole positive or negative? Is it time to build a new foundation for humanity? These poignant questions lie at the core of Francis M. Boggs’ Paradise Mislaid. In the novel, Hugh Norris is a respected scientist who makes a huge discovery with countless ramifications. Aware of the chaos that could ensue, he begins creating his vision for mankind that he wishes to release alongside his research. Will his vision survive the many obstacles on its way?
The book raises interesting points and asks provocative questions that prompt reflection. As such, religious readers will have to either approach this with an open mind or skip it altogether. The novel doesn’t promote atheism, but non-believers will have an easier time dealing with its critiques of religious institutions.
That said, while the concept is interesting, the execution is sadly lacking. We only get to know Hugh’s discovery at the very end, so most of the time we’re left with vague, cryptic ideas without a coherent origin. Even after the research results are finally revealed, it’s hard to see what the fuss was all about and how exactly Hugh’s vision is related to them. The ending is fairly inconclusive.
There’s not much proper character development in the book, and the reader never really connects to anyone in particular. The dialogue is stiff and awkward at times, with characters explaining obvious things the other person should already know. An example is, “I will discuss this with our old friend Peter Watson, who as you know is now an influential member of parliament.” What’s the point of re-introducing an old friend like this, especially using his full name? This feels unnatural.
A consistent problem with the novel is the conflict between what's shown and what's told. The earth-shattering fact turns out not to be a big deal at all. An ordinary debate between university students is touted as one of the major events of the century. A bishop goes insane when confronted by extremely vague anti-religious rhetoric. A character spends years trying to crack a password, only to stumble upon an obvious solution.
Besides missing periods, misuse of quotation marks, and misplaced punctuation in general, the book features many wrong or questionable omissions of commas: “Only if I want it to Hugh and I am not completely at ease with it as I have previously described.” These sentences can easily distract the reader.
Overall, Paradise Mislaid has potential but fails to deliver. The poor editing, weak characters, and disappointing conclusion lead me to rate the book 2 out of 4 stars. The novel can be a good read if you’re interested in critiques of religion. There are brief instances of profane language, so I wouldn’t recommend it to young readers.
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