Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Fiji: A Novel by Lance & James Morcan

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Personal Kindle Library
Read: July 5, 2012

Fiji is a spellbinding novel of adventure, cultural misunderstandings, religious conflict and sexual tension set in one of the most exotic and isolated places on earth. As the pharaohs of ancient Egypt build their mighty pyramids, and Chinese civilization evolves under the Shang Dynasty, adventurous seafarers from South East Asia begin to settle the far-flung islands of the South Pacific. The exotic archipelago of Fiji is one of the last island groups to be discovered and will remain hidden from the outside world for many centuries to come. By the mid-1800's, Fiji has become a melting pot of cannibals, warring native tribes, sailors, traders, prostitutes, escaped convicts and all manner of foreign undesirables. It's in this hostile environment an innocent young Englishwoman and a worldly American adventurer find themselves. Susannah Drake, a missionary, questions her calling to spread God’s Word as she’s torn between her spiritual and sexual selves. As her forbidden desires intensify, she turns to the scriptures and prayer to quash the sinful thoughts – without success. Nathan Johnson arrives to trade muskets to the Fijians and immediately finds himself at odds with Susannah. She despises him for introducing the white man’s weapons to the very people she is trying to convert and he pities her for her naivety. Despite their differences, there’s an undeniable chemistry between them. When their lives are suddenly endangered by marauding cannibals, Susannah and Nathan are forced to rely on each other for their very survival. Written by father-and-son writing team Lance & James Morcan (authors of The Ninth Orphan), Fiji is an historical adventure-romance published by Sterling Gate Books. A feature film adaptation of Fiji is currently being developed.

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Sunset at Nananu-i-Ra, Fiji © Hermann Luyken
(CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons
Lance and James Morcan's Fiji presents me with a lot of challenges as a reviewer. The content is there, but the finished product could benefit from some fine tuning.  

Not being in any way familiar with Fiji or its history, I found the book both fascinating and bewildering. The Morcans offer up tons of great material, but I couldn't help wondering how much of it was fact and how much was fiction. My questions could have been alleviated by the inclusion of a historic note at the end of the novel, but alas, Fiji lacks any attribution to source material. Not only am I still in the dark as to what research went into the book, I am also at a loss on where to begin my own search for information. As a fan of historic fiction I find this fairly frustrating. 

Now, I beg forgiveness, but I wasn't aware I was venturing into bodice ripper territory when I began reading Fiji. "Susannah knew she was in danger of being overwhelmed by the intensity of her sexual fantasies. Her forbidden desires were like demons she couldn't exorcise..." I have nothing against the genre, it isn't my favorite, but that is beside the point. Anyone remember my review of or unpleasant kerfuffle with the author of Beloved Pilgrim? I don't like getting blindsided. The blurb led to me to believed this would be a historic piece and while it does incorporate a lot of fascinating period components, I felt they were in competition with the romance elements of the book. The result left me confused and not particularly satisfied one way or the other. 

Finally, the descriptions are wordy, significantly so. I appreciate the desire to create a believable setting and developed cast members, but sometimes what you don't say, the things you leave to the imagination are more compelling and significant than the things you do. Beginning to end I found myself wishing the narrative didn't include quite so much embellishment. 

The final line of blurb is an interesting promotional tool. I personally found it very interesting that Fiji is being adapted for film and after a little digging, discovered the project has been taken on by Morcan Motion Pictures. That's right, this father son team work in multiple mediums. This of course has no affect on my review of their book, though it may explain some of mechanical problems I identified in my reading. Film allows an artist expression through physical nuance and visualizations that are almost, if not impossible to replicate on paper. It is merely an observation, but it is entirely possible that my comments and criticisms might stem from the fact that the Morcans may have more of a familiarity with storytelling as applied to film rather than traditional print publications. 

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Life and death are nothing to these people, so I'm damned if I am going to risk my life to help them. 
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