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The Prodigy Project Paperback – November 10, 2010
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
With twelve children and three grandsons, author Doug Flanders is well acquainted with non-stop adventure. He draws on 15 years experience as an Army Reservist and 18 years as a practicing physician to craft his medical thrillers. The Flanders family makes their home in Tyler, Texas.
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For those of you who are still reading, and those of you who know me, I’m now going to give my real review. I’m going to separate into two parts, because the second part will include some dramatic spoilers. I’ve decided to model my review, just for fun, after the old plucking petals off a daisy thing. Except instead of ‘she loves me’ etc., I am going to go for, “I liked it… I liked it less…” So, here we go:
I loved it that the main character was a homeschooling dad. I liked it less that no one seemed to object at all, so we never really got into his motivation. Given that we were rescuing two children from China, and dealing with Chinese officials, there would seem to have been all sorts of possibilities for objections, arguments, etc. I mean, one of the most statist countries in the world? You can imagine what they think of homeschooling!!
I loved it that the main character was a full-quiver dad. I liked it less that this came out as sort of a backdrop instead of, again, being source of tension. Again… China. When we traveled in Germany there were times when we literally couldn’t rent hotel rooms. We had too many people, legally, for one room, and yet did not have enough adults for the rooms we legally needed. Much could have been done with that, with no one being prepared for so many children, being stared at all the time.
The Path to Marriage
I absolutely loved it that the author raised all of these tensions about the nature of the path to marriage. Of course, that is my issue! Arguments about arranged marriage, big tensions about the dating relationship the older son was having (and authority therein). Oh, dear. I can’t really talk about this much more without giving some spoilers so…
Here be Spoilers.
You were Warned!
Still reading? Ok…
The Son and his Girl
… Here the son, on his own authority, has his ‘girlfriend’ of two long years fly all the way to China just so they can be together and get out of the boring family stuff… and we never end up fighting this out. The Dad yells at the son, the son yells at the dad (more on that later) and then they both kind of apologize and on without ever dealing with the underlying issue. Who had authority? Was the son his own (’adult’) man to be making these decisions? Was she under his authority? Or was he just a run of the mill, out of control, rebellious teen??
… Here the daughter gets ‘married’ to a man she just met and seems to despise, but we see almost *nothing* of all of the interesting bits!! We don’t see her told that she is going to marry him, we don’t see the ceremony (do they kiss? Hold hands?) and then, adding injury to insult in a big way, we don’t get to see anything at all after that. Marriage two months later? Glorious consummation but horribly deflating. Had this married couple been sleeping together? Calling other daily? Something must have happened to turn their plan for a quicky divorce into a… hey… how about if we… do you want to… etc. Etc.
What is ‘marriage’ anyway?
… and here both of these things happen and the father never, ever, gets at the theological underpinnings of any of it!! When he agreed that his daughter should ‘marry’ this man, did he then consider them married? Did he consider her new husband her authority? Or did he consider that nothing had happened, that a ‘legal’ marriage was nonsense? (And we never get to see his wife’s reaction to any of this, either!!)
Vows of Silence
I loved it that the book dealt with the issue of vows of silence between government workers and their wives/families. I happen to believe that these vows are dramatically unScriptural. But while these vows dealt a body blow (quickly shrugged off, another complaint) to our hero, his marriage, and his relationship with his family… we never see the conclusion. We never here the, “Ok, now that we’re back home, we need to thrash this out. Why did you hide this from us for all this time?” And his answer. And their answer. And the Scriptures concerned.
Thus Says the Lord
Which brings me to another issue. Not a spoiler, but it’s too late now. Scripture. This man really seemed to be trying to live his life by Scriptural principles, but he was rather short on saying ‘Thus says the Lord’. And where was the awkward scene where Hank shows up in middle of family worship? Where were Hank and Grace working out if they would follow in her father’s footsteps as far as full quiver, homeschooling, etc?
I loved it that the author had a large, well organized family. But the proverbial authors failure of ‘show don’t tell’ bit him there. I think the organization would have been much better shown by having it work during some crisis rather than being so much explained. Have the children get up from their seats in the plane, get each other’s backpacks etc etc., and file out, and have the stewardess say, “I’ve never seen the like! I was expecting it to take ten minutes to get all of these kids out!” Indeed, the scene with the stewardess could have been better from that angle. She lost the die roll, have her show it. Have her come up with a ‘forced smile’ etc. And then gradually thaw out as she sees how things go.
I loved it that this book included so much medicine. But I was going to object to how some of it was shown when my daughter, who is also medical, raved about it. So I’ll just repeat that I loved that bit and skip the next petal in my daisy :)
I loved it that it was a thriller, and there really isn’t another petal on that except…
I loved the idea of writing about kids kidnapped by the state for nefarious ends. And I loved the idea of a bio thriller. But why both? I think it weakened the overall plot that we were supposed to care about some kind of historically hidden viruses and then, in mid book, have to change to care about kids stolen by the state, their parents killed, and then suddenly jump into human trafficking overall.
Indeed, if you were going to do that, I think it was backwards. Kidnapped children, however important, are kind of a let down from ‘the whole world is going to die’ thing. But we could follow kidnapped children to the “end of the world tension”, certainly. And I must say I am disappointed that all of my study about these various kinds of genetic viruses came to nothing in the end.
Grace vs Hank
Grace and Hank. My favorite tension. But something was missing. Grace and Hank have this mini-fight in which he accuses her of having been burned in some past relationship. She denies it, but we never get at the truth.
A Traitor in our Midst!
Jung. Loved the idea of a ‘traitor in their midst’. Love the idea that we can’t figure out who it is until late. But… her motivation doesn’t work. Do something so Chen won’t be killed? Great. (Was there supposed to be a love interest there?) But that motivation dies as soon as they are in the States! Far from helping Chen at that point, sabotage of their new home can only hurt. What hold did the evil genius have over her there? Had he threatened to have Chen killed there? If so, why wasn’t she worried about that when she was found out?
Grace. Love Grace. Hank, whole relationship. Grace with Dad, sure. But… what’s with the ‘adult’ thing? Raised and dropped. A ‘mere child’ too young to ‘marry’? Or an ‘adult’? A quick fight, a few words, but no resolution.
The intern on the plane. Loved it. But the poor guy should at least have been invited to the wedding! Raised and dropped.
A great book with tons of stuff I liked and was interested in. But having raised so many interesting issues, the book did not succeed, for me, in dealing with them, at arriving at their conclusion. I want more… or I want less more dealt with. I want more description, more tension, but, most of all, more issues dealt with thoroughly.
So, when Jon Gunderson brings his family as a cover to stop this bio-weapons attempt, naturally things go wrong and Jon is forced to go head-to-head to rescue his family and family friends before things get way out of hand.
Having read a lot of debut novels, I've learned not to expect much. Not because they're all terrible or anything like that. Just that new authors don't really know their strengths and weaknesses very well yet, so though the books aren't disastrous, they're not as good as they could be.
This book however is different. Doug Flanders is a great author for a debut book. I was in awe of how well this book was written and was glad it came in the mail as I began reading. I think it helps that he has twelve kids and a wife to proofread. In fact, without that astronomical amount of family members available, this book have been a total disaster.
This book has a lot going on in it, making it very difficult to successfully pull off and make believable. Though the amount of trouble the Gunderson family is put through is realistic, I'm not completely sure that the type of trouble was believable. But all I know is the Hollywood version of these stories and am not an expert in any means. However, Mr. Flanders made the slightly unbelievable storyline enjoyable and something completely plausible in real life.
The story however, doesn't focus on the endogenous retroviruses as much as the back cover makes you believe. Which you don't really notice until after you've flipped the last page. It's not a bad thing that they're not in there so much, I just wish that the back cover had advertised some of the other action moments in the book, because now I don't know what to give away and what to keep a secret.
Like I said prior, Doug Flanders had over a dozen people giving constructive criticism and encouragement and I agree with him when he says that the book is better because of it. The book truly is a much better book because of his many children and their opinions.
Doug Flanders also draws on his 33 years as a physician to craft this medical thriller and it shows. Me wanting to be in the medical field, I learned a lot that I'm sure I'll be able to use later.
There was a lot of science talk in the book that was mercifully defined to make it easier to read. Though, it was difficult to follow, it enhanced the experience of the book.
Overall, it's not really a light read with the subject and the amount of action in the book. It is however perfect for a spy loving book or perfect for the action lover in all of us.
I give it four out of five.
This book was graciously given to me from Book Crash and Prescott Publishing for this honest review.