The Sun Singer by Malcolm R. Campbell
(iUniverse / 0-595-31665-4 / June 2004 / 320 pages / $19.95)
Robert is a normal teenage boy who has lots of very imaginative dreams inspired by his adventures in a time he has never known. Yes, the dreams feature a teenage girl or two, but his special relationship with his grandfather has taught him that the strange dreams contain a new reality he will soon enter. He has been groomed for this new adventure since he was very young. He had witnessed a tragic accident in which a young girl was killed, a day that would forever haunt his consciousness. After his grandfather dies, the remainder of the Elliott family takes a summer vacation to the mountains of Robert's destiny. One by one, the places, characters, and events of his dreams begin to come to life.
In my opinion, the best element of The Sun Singer is the way the story holds its ties with Robert's real world and family. Once he enters the dream world for real, the story becomes a fantasy in which Robert is now known as Osprey, and also as The Sun Singer. The Disney classic movie, Dragonslayer, stars a similar young hero who must save the tribe of the good guys from the evil villain. If you liked Dragonslayer, you will enjoy The Sun Singer, as there are similarities in the plot and characters. I mention that old '80's movie because it was of a particularly high quality, and so is the storyline of this book. The difference lies in The Sun Singer's firm grip on the current millennium. In this respect, the book owes more to the Carlos Castaneda Don Juan adventures with psychotropic plants than it does to Dragonslayer. Robert Adams lives in the current time and Osprey exists in a time long ago, but not in a galaxy far away. Robert flashes back and forth, at least within his own mind, between then and now. He was Osprey then and he is Robert now, but both are operating at the same mountainous location in the Western U.S. Robert steps through a time portal often traversed by his grandfather. While his body is apparently in one time, his mind can sometimes fluctuate between the two eras. They didn't call him the Soothsayer of West Wood Street for nuttin'!
That is all of the plotline that should be explained here. Malcolm R. Campbell has successfully crafted an elegant, romantic fantasy of good vs. evil that most fans of the genre should appreciate. The novel has been promoted as one for both old and young adults, and I concur with that assessment. I particularly like the way Robert acts like an adventurous, intelligent, well-behaved teenager. Although the book offers an appeal to adults with its separate reality ala A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, it does not include language or attitudes that tend to influence young readers in a negative manner. The character development is well done, and I mean that with a double entendre. Fantasy fans will eagerly await a sequel when they can step into another time with Osprey without leaving Robert or his modern lifestyle completely behind.
Two very small, negative issues need to be mentioned. By doing so, maybe the next time Robert becomes Osprey, the adventure will be even more enjoyable. The first is that a little more care should be applied to the proofreading stage. Although of the most trivial nature, the typos in this book reach a far higher number than they should. These are of such a miniscule type that they do not slow down the reading or comprehension a whit, but a book with this high quality of storytelling deserves the look of a completely professional effort. The second issue is that I think the story would be more immediate in its feel of excitement if it had been told in the present tense instead of the past tense. The present tense would better serve the reader's wonder and exhilaration of the time-travel experience. I have no further complaints. I am not a rabid fan of the fantasy genre, but I liked the book and I enjoyed the experience of flashing through time and space with well-developed characters within a psychologically believable storyline. If an old nonfiction writer like me found the trip entertaining, certainly many of the multitude of fantasy readers out there will be ecstatic from the journey.