The White Hairs Paperback – 19 Jul 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
The mysticism practiced brings to mind various religions in which meditation or some other practice can cause the spirit to separate from the physical state. Time loses all meaning to Farshoul while his ethereal form travels the world, as is often the case with these belief systems. It is in the ties between the transcendental and the earthly that the author showcases his creativity. The way in which Farshoul manifests the damage to his spirit-self forces the reader to consider the means by which we view others, as well as the sources of our capacity to care. That the physical body can remain unscathed even as the soul is maimed is a novel concept, as the two are typically inextricably linked in literature.
While the story itself shows great promise, its brevity inhibits the reader's ability to buy into the ideas that are being presented. The abrupt shifts between scenes made it feel as if I were cataloging facts rather than immersing myself in fiction. The experience was further marred by the author's seeming need to restate what has already been said several times over. The chosen verbiage wasn't varied enough to mask this deficiency, and my mind soon rebelled as it felt underestimated. Readers pick up more than one may think.Read more ›
Farshoul is a White Hair - a humanoid creature - that lives high in the mountains with his people. They're a world apart from man and yet so closely related. The White Hairs view humans with a sort of dismissive contempt for their lack of "sight" and appreciation for the world around them.
Like many of his tribe, Farshoul has the ability to travel outside of his body and see the world via astral projection. But, his experiences are completely different than that of his fellow White Hairs and he isn't entirely sure that he likes it. It changes him and he must fight to get back what he lost.
Grammar/Spelling: The book had no grammatical issues to speak of and zero spelling errors. My suggestion would be to combine some of the shorter sentences as there are sections that seem rather choppy and do not flow as well as other passages. I noticed a couple of formatting issues that will be easily corrected after another read through.
Character Development: The story follows Farshoul and his adventures with soul traveling, but I didn't feel as if I got to know Farshoul very well. His experiences were pretty life-altering, but I can only assume that as there is really very little development of his character. Noah created a potentially very interesting character/creature but fell short in explaining his outlook and thoughts prior to his initial soul traveling incident. Perhaps flushing Farshoul's character out a bit more would help the reader truly understand the exceptional differences in Farshoul's personality before and after his excursions in the astral planes.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I look forward to seeing more from this author. Recommended.
A couple reviews ago I spent some time describing stories and their ideas and how sometimes the potency of one doesn't match the other. However, one type I failed to list are the tales whose ideas are fully fleshed out, meaty, and beautiful, yet whose writing lags a bit behind. For a perfect example of this, I can point to "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand. These are two books whose concepts are striking in their completion, yet the function and form of the stories don't quite measure up. In instances such as these, the lack of literary prowess is easily ignored - at least by this reviewer - for it is what they have to say that is important.
I found myself thinking of these types of tales while reading "The White Hairs", a novella of surprising depth by author Noah Mullette-Gillman. Within is presented the story of Farshoul, a yeti-like creature who lives in the icy mountaintop regions of some unnamed place in some unnamed (though somewhat modern) time. He and his people have lived atop these mountains for centuries, isolated from the human race. They are an unexpectedly sophisticated race of beings, seemingly more advanced than man in terms of intellect and spiritual understanding. As is their right of passage, these White Hairs, as they're called, "travel" - or astral project - to both further their understanding of the nature of their souls and help to strengthen their sense of community. It is here, during one of these traveling ceremonies, that we first meet Farshoul.
Farshoul has a different experience than his brethren. Whereas they dance about and interact with each other while away from their bodies, he can see none of them. He goes off on his own to explore, and through this exploration he discovers what it is like to be the wind, sees the forces of nature at work in ways beyond his imagination, and even comes to respect the way humans band together to create beauty during the more dire and hopeless moments.
The problem is that Farshoul's experience is so outside those of his peoples', they don't believe him. They say he is imagining things, that the rituals might be dangerous for him. This causes him to go out and experiment with the process on his own, which leads to him being away from his body for a long period of time and eventually running across a demon who wishes to devour the very soul he is flittering about within. It is due to this confrontation that Farshoul is stripped of his sight, of his feelings, of his innocence, and is left to exist for the next thirty years as a shell of the being he once was.
(To add to this, I have to say it is a brilliant metaphor for growing up as a spiritual being. We grasp on to our religions as children, and they are perfect. Yet we grow older, and we see the ugliness out there, even in those we trust. Our faith is diminished, and that virtuousness is gone. Just as with Farshoul, food doesn't taste as good, play isn't as fulfilling, and people begin to look untrustworthy. Call it growing up if you will...I'll call it Gaining Harmful Knowledge, and just like Farshoul, we spend the rest of our lives trying to reclaim that lost innocence.)
I wouldn't be doing this book any justice if I didn't mention how darn beautiful it is. The imagery is ethereal and salient. The reflections are complex and sometimes somber. We are shown the world through the shadow of a ghost, and are left to feel the pain of this astounding creature when he is reduced from his previously innocent and naïve adventurer into an angry and often violent stoic.
The ways the ideas themselves are presented are cause for attention, as well. There are many put forth; some are explained, some aren't. And yet, there is no sense of finality to any of them. It is almost as if the author measured all the belief systems in this world of ours, considered them equally valid, and now tells us, "who are we to say there is only one way?" This, along with the fairy-tale, otherworldly feel that the tale possesses, doesn't just border on brilliance. It becomes so.
However, there is a downside to the book, and that is the writing. At times it flows smoothly, other times not so much. The author is taken to overuse of adverbs, at times placing them so close together they become redundant. The tone can go from intricate to childlike and back again, without the flow of the tale justifying the shift. I found this a little frustrating, but in the end, I chose to ignore it as far as my enjoyment of the story was concerned, because it had so much magnificence to offer. As a reviewer, however, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't point them out.
In closing, I have to say that this little gem is definitely worth the read. And the lack of proper structure and pacing doesn't ruin the experience. If anything, all it accomplishes is to take a book that could have been great and makes it very, very good.
It is my hope that author Mullette-Gilman will revisit his text and rework it. It would make me quite proud if these previous two paragraphs are rendered moot. Because this is something that I feel should be digested by folks of all ages and creeds - and it would be fantastic if these folks would have no reason to find fault.
Plot - 9
Characters - 8
Voice - 7
Execution - 7
Personal Enjoyment - 10
Overall - 39/50 (3.9/5)
Mullette-Gillman's writing is spare yet deceptively intricate, weaving a tale of spiritual discovery that is at once otherworldly but heartfelt. As readers we follow the Yeti-like Farshoul and the far-ranging adventures of his soul, from exploration to exultation, from joy to fury to a cold indifference perhaps worse than death.
With Farshoul we travel tremendous distances in time and space, between gods and monsters, amongst mortal men and the mysterious White Hairs themselves. Will Farshoul finally descend into despair or redemption, a final disengagement or an ultimate enlightenment?
I won't spoil any endings as this is a journey all readers should take through the pages of Mullette-Gillman's fine work. Let this author's exquisite imagination lead your spirit, perhaps reflecting the quest of your own soul in the trials of this enduring creature.
The writing style throughout is smooth, evenly-paced, and easy to read. The only difficulty I found was the font face, which was initially a bit difficult to focus my eyes on, but that disappeared quickly as the narrative took hold. Despite a detailed description of a ritualized killing, which is explained as being necessary only "every so often," the story doesn't explain how the larger than human-sized creatures could survive deep in snow-covered mountains with little vegetation. Farshoul's mother enters, and leaves, the story but a father is never mentioned, and little is made of how the society in general functions. There is also a seemingly anachronistic descriptions of machinery and handguns when Farshoul himself is apparently not familiar with the human world at all outside of the ancient stone walls near his home. Yet none of these minor points detract from the main narrative flow, which is essentially the spiritual journey of a single character isolated from others of his kind.
While reading the descriptions of the world which Farshoul inhabits, I couldn't help picturing the images from Hayao Miyazaki's classic "Shuna no tabi" (The Journey of Shuna). Both stories have a high fantasy, almost fairy-tale-like feel; both take place in a high mountainous area; both involve a solitary journey of one young man who encounters violence and death, yet feels helpless to prevent them; both meet mythical giants who seem to hold the secrets of existence itself. Finally, both characters are all but shattered from the journey and barely survive the return trip to their homes. But while Shuna sacrifices himself for the sake of seeds for his village and spends no time pondering spiritual matters, Farshoul seeks something far more ethereal and intangible than physical necessities: he seeks what is true about himself, his people, and the world at large, and that is why the story does not end with his return. Instead, he must journey again to find that which he was and still could be. In that sense, the White Hairs owes less to the Himalayas and more to the Caucasus, with echoes of Gurdjieff's "self-remembering" reverberating through the steps of its main character as he gropes towards a spiritual reawakening.
Overall, one of the most original stories I've read in a while. A promising first offering from a new talent.