Murgan’s debut, allegorical fantasy novel describes a boy’s spiritual journey through the corrupt world of men.
Rakash was born into an idyllic, unnamed jungle society, populated by children and elephants. The kids, born from pods and destined for different castes, are raised by the wise pachyderms, who help the children transition to higher states of being. Rakash is a very rare child—an “Orange Soul,” identifiable by the orange triangles on his cheeks. Such beings have the power to serve as interlocutors between humans and “One Who Created All.” They are also mystical empaths who have the ability to influence “the people around [them], spread love to those who lack it, change desperate thoughts into beacons of hope.” While still a small child, Rakash is kidnapped by a group called the “Committee,” taken away from his elephant teacher, Otan, and spirited to Laeta, the “Entertainment City” on the wide river plain. Here, amid the hedonists who frequent the city’s brothels, taverns, and tattoo parlors, devout master Bart Blackwood rescues Rakash and attempts to help him tap into his power. Rakash, in turn, becomes a great teacher, interested in bringing enlightenment to humanity, but the pleasure-minded inhabitants of Laeta and the technology-obsessed denizens of sister city Korobat prove a difficult audience to reach. He’ll have to find Otan in order to bring about the ultimate communion with “One Who Created All.” Murgan’s prose is densely laden with the jargon of his world’s mythology: “I remember that many previous births have preceded this one,” says Rakash, “and, in one of them, I was able to reach a state of bliss deep enough for One Who Created All to offer me free passage to the next astral level.” Still, the plot effectively explores the age-old quest for enlightenment, and it does so by employing some highly imaginative science-fiction and fantasy elements. However, Murgan’s spiritual interests crowd out his characters’ humanity, making it difficult for the reader to become too invested in their pursuits. The result is a book that isn’t nearly as fun as it should be, given all of its fabulist trappings.
An ambitious but wooden story about finding spiritual fulfillment.