Book Review: A Passage to Shambhala by Jon Baird (Three Stars)

Book Review: A Passage to Shambhala (The Explorers’ Guild #1) by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner; Illustrated by Rick Ross

Three Stars

“The future remains as closed as it ever was … and I am not sure the past is any less a mystery.”

A conscious throwback to the adventure tales of the likes of Verne, Burroughs, Kipling, and Haggard. Larger-than-life heroes and villains set upon a stage much like actual world history and geography to play out a great adventure. Even told, narrator and all, with a nineteenth century tone. There’s a reason we don’t write like that today. What’s starts as quaint, soon devolves into cute, and decays into tedious after 700 pages.

“Lost? No, you should consider, rather, that you are freed from the wheel of things.”

Don’t let the page count daunt you, more than half is presented in comic book (Sorry, graphic novel) format. The drawings aren’t particularly good—that is, they are good, but they’re wooden and repetitive. (I’d be tempted to duplicate the same figures and faces, too.) Perhaps they were reaching for the type of book which they liked as children. A credible attempt, but I’ll not rush purchase of the next volume.

“A man without a stake in the world loses the guiding light of his humanity.”

I read the hard-cover edition. The pages were artificially browned to appear aged. It’s of a piece with the cuteness mentioned above. I can’t imagine how an electronic version will read. My experience with book maps and illustrations in Nooks and iPads has not been encouraging.

“I cannot tell if we are on to the greater and deeper workings of the world or only lost in some madness.”

Quibbles: The putative title appears nowhere on the dust jacket. “… at or about the millennium …” referring to 1900?  “… strikes a match.” In a hydrogen-filled dirigible? (The continent-spanning underground river is fine; it’s that kind of book.)

“You’re a d-mned little imp, too, though I know a great many good men who started out that way.”

Numerous verbal oaths are softened by omitting the vowels. Perhaps that is also a practice drawn from a century ago. Only marginally effective.

“These days [or childhood] are gone out of memory and we’re covered up with these wasting, old bodies.”