Monday, February 16, 2009

Book Review: The Happy Soul Industry

To review or not to review, that is always the question. I generally make a point of reviewing only books I like and can recommend without reservation. I did like The Happy Soul Industry by Steffan Postaer, but I definitely have reservations about recommending it. The book has a great premise - God is in need of an advertising agency and sends an angel to earth to get some proposals. As the angel tells one of the ad agencies, they want people to "Go to church. More importantly, like going to church. Help those in need. Stop littering. Think before speaking poorly of others. Stop hurting one another. Get off drugs. Just be nicer in general. Have faith in God." I think that this could have been a great book had the author not felt the need to include the f-word on several occasions (really, when does that word ever add to a story?), include a decidedly soft-porn sex scene, and refer to Jesus as mere myth. The fact that God is portrayed as a woman is meant to be shocking I suppose, but it's been done and it isn't really shocking anymore. Also, Postaer has our God just be God of this part of the universe. There are other gods elsewhere. Yes, it is fiction, but fiction that messes with God is always a sensitive area. Most conservative (and perhaps even moderate) Christians of any denomination are going to be offended by this book.

That is unfortunate because the book really is a good quick read and has an important lesson about our consumer culture, all the more meaningful in light of the fact that Postear works in advertising. Chapter twenty, in particular, in which one of the characters creates a story for his daughter, is an incredible gem. That chapter could stand alone as a short story and relays the point of the book very well.

To summarize, "Happy Soul Industry" is a good story with some bad packaging. Read it for the lesson, but be advised of its more controversial aspects.

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