May 30th, 2012 12:41 EST
BOOK REVIEW: The Final Summit by Andy Andrews
MY RATING: ** (out of * * * *)
BRIEF SYNOPSIS (spoiler free): Famous people throughout history are summoned by archangel Gabriel to consider a question whose answer would decide the fate of mankind. The wrong answer would doom us all.
PROS: A fairly quick and easy read. Interesting premise. Many valuable ethical insights, with thoughtful philosophical discussions and historical summaries. Good for inspiring reader to contemplate not only the Question to be answered (so the reader might discern his or her own answer), but also think about the ideas considered by these characters.
The tone and personality of each historical figure sounds authentic, (even if sometimes only superficially).
In chapter 8, we are told about a fascinating character obscured by history, named Eric Erickson, who played a significant role in defeating Hitler.
On page 32, Gabriel reveals-- in what amounts to be a grand non-sequitur-- that a more advanced and lost civilization existed in pre-history (alas, the declaration is promptly ignored).
CONS: This book`s interesting premise is poorly conceived and even more poorly executed.
All participants in the fateful discussion are famous historical figures--- except the protagonist, who is an ordinary historical nobody. A jumbled philosophical hodge-podge. Feels as if trying-- and failing-- to be another Celestine Prophecy or Ishmael. In an attempt or appearance of being profound, the story ends up being preposterous. A precarious prestidigitation of ponderous prevarication. The fundamental question posed is how humanity may create a successful civilization--- but they never bother to define what success or civilization mean. The Final Summit repeatedly defies its own premise and internal logic; the central framework is ultimately untenable. With a limited time to discover the correct answer, the characters constantly digress from the topic into praise for various historical figures, and summarily recount their accomplishments. And in the process, leaping onto simplistic answers, reached in an impossibly unanimous and disagreement-free consensus. The answer provided feels empty, forced-- presented like a scientist contriving data to fit a hypothesis to prove it. But the sanctimonious conclusion given is not logically supported by or drawn from the available evidence.
RECOMMENDATION: Read for the ideas, not the story. If you have had little exposure to philosophy and history, then you may want to read this. Otherwise, it isn`t telling you much you aren`t likely to already know.