Stan I.S. Law’s Concoction of Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience
We enjoy dividing the different aspects of our lives and keeping them separate from each other, as if physical partitions maintain various parts of the self sequestered. People divide their religious beliefs from their political ones, the drunk self from the sober one, the child from the adult, yesterday from tomorrow. However, I believe that we always remain the sum of all our parts no matter how we are acting or what we believe at any given moment. Everything we have done and gone through has led to the formation of a very specific individual, one whose personal, spiritual, political and scientific beliefs are all intertwined and wouldn’t be able to survive without each other. Stan I.S. Law is the kind of person who doesn’t shy away from seeing life for the complex and chaotic jumble of conflicting beliefs that it is, and it’s made abundantly clear in The Avatar Syndrome, the first book in the author’s bestselling trilogy.
To explain it simply and briefly without any spoilers, we follow the life of a woman named Anne from her very early years to her successful adulthood where she becomes a world-renowned violinist. From her first peculiarities as a child, we walk through the steps of her personal growth and in the process become incredibly well-acquainted with the world surrounding her, to the point where her life begins to feel like our own. We watch her and her parents go through countless trials and tribulations for decades on end, many of them a cruel symptom of the unusual nature residing within Anne. We witness her traversing periods of pitch darkness as well as bright light on her way to realizing the tremendous and extraordinary potential within her. At the same time, we are also given an educative window into the world of neuroscience through a friend of the family preoccupied with justifying the 3 billion dollar grant he received for his research.
A Gradual and Detailed Beginning
With this being the start of the trilogy it only makes sense for world and character-building to be at the forefront of it all. The beginning to the whole plot is very gradual as we are slowly taken through Anne’s early years and the many singular problems she had to contend with, ranging from being kidnapped by a pervert to having a tumor removed from her head. Stan I.S. Law truly put a whole lot of effort into building a relation between Anne and the reader, exposing much of her inner world to us and truly making us care for this fragile and tormented little girl, perhaps even evoking some latent parental instincts. Nothing ever moves too quickly and we are always given the time to truly absorb and mull over what we’re reading; there are some truly heavy moments laden with despair that take a bit of time to process.
As much as we come to know Anne, we also get to know her parents, Michael and Diane, as well as their family friend John. All three people play important roles in Anne’s life for many years to come, and each one is a fully refined character of their own. Michael is an engineer who deals with cold, hard facts and sarcastic humour, his wife Diane has a stronger pull towards the spiritual side, and John, who works in the field of neuroscience, is somewhere in the gray zone between the two. The conversations periodically had by the trio are, in my opinion, some of the true highlights of the book as they sit and debate volatile topics, many of which probably won’t have definitive answers anytime soon.
As mentioned before, this beginning is a gradual one and the author is keen on not missing a single note. Things unfold at a steady and calculated pace, with most of the plot development focusing on the transformation of characters in face of various circumstances. In other words, I would classify this as a thinking reader’s novel.
The Trademark Philosophy
If you are unfamiliar with Stan I.S. Law, then let me simply say this: one would be hard-pressed to find a work of his that doesn’t have meditations and reflections on the grand topics in life that keep us awake at night. He has become known for not only writing truly unique stories that veer into unexplored territories, but also for his tremendous insight, ability to discuss the complex in simple terms, and his tendency of pushing us to find our own conclusions.
In this story we are treated to plenty of philosophy from all sides, and the predominant theme is the clash between the factual rigour of science and the inexplicable elements of reality which a spiritual approach can help understand. The author doesn’t really take any sides and uses the three adults surrounding Anne in large part to explore this conflict of beliefs, striving to use it as a vehicle for his own meditations on these topics. As you might imagine, there are plenty of interesting arguments on both sides for you to ponder and analyze; no matter what your preconceived notions on this subject might be, I guarantee you will find ideas that will make you stop and think for a minute or two.
I would like to add that when many authors include philosophical elements in their books, they do so in a ham-handed way that feels like it breaks the rhythm and takes you out of the story. There is absolutely no such nonsense with Stan I.S. Law, at least in this book. The philosophical conversations always fit smoothly into the story and never drag on to overstay their welcome; their size and timing makes them just as much part of the plot as any other event.
The Final Verdict
To bring the curtains down on this review, I would like to start by stating that The Avatar Syndrome is without a doubt one of the more original, touching and thought-provoking books that I’ve had the pleasure of reading recently. A very solid start to the trilogy, it’s the kind of phenomenal tour-de-force that takes you by surprise and drags you into uncharted territories to show you new wonders that will stay with you for a long time. Everything from the simple, concise and eloquent writing style, to the sympathetic characters, dramatically-touching plot and contemplative ruminations is absolutely perfect. It’s a book I highly recommend to those looking for a strong literary experience they won’t soon forget and who aren’t afraid to do a bit of thinking for themselves.
Stan I.S. Law is the pen name used by Stanislaw Kapuscinski when writing his fictional stories, which tremendously lean in the direction of philosophical science-fiction. In the few years after his retirement from the job architect, he gave himself to literature completely and has graced us with many unique and remarkable novels that have the gift of touching us in ways none other can.
Amongst the many books he released are the Avatar and Winston trilogies, as well as Yeshua and Keys to Immortality. He was nominated for the CBC Literary Award and the first book in The Avatar trilogy was on the New York Times bestsellers list.