Bobby Ether and The Academy by R Scott Boyer is a self described young adult urban fantasy and spiritual fiction. I must disclose that I met the author in November of 2013. We had the opportunity to discuss current projects we were both working on. I myself am in the process of completing my first novel and Mr. Boyer had just fished writing and publishing his. It was interesting to discover that both books are in the spiritual fantasy genre and both have teenage heroes. Although our writing styles differ, the subject matter has many similarities.
I enjoyed reading Bobby Ether and The Academy. The book is a fun and easy read. I enjoy fantasy and science fiction, so it already scored points for the genre alone. Mr. Boyer’s writing style is smooth, clear and concise. Not once did I get lost, having to backtrack to pick up the trail. The action was steady enough to keep me on the ride without bumping me off and the plot was well established at the beginning, keeping me in my seat. What more could a first time author want? Kudos to Mr. Boyer. Keep up the good work.
The book, to its credit, is specifically geared towards a young adult audience. As an adult I prefer more meat on the table, but for a younger audience it may be balanced perfectly. Hard for me to know the mind of a youth as I have not been a teenager for quite some years. If I had to guess, the perfect age group for this book would be between the ages of ten to sixteen, perhaps older for those that really love fantasy and don’t mind the simplicity.
The books strengths mostly lie in the authors ability to communicate a well planned story with a clear objective. Easier said than done, so again, great work. What was lacking, in my humble opinion, were unforgettable characters. I tend to gravitate towards character driven works so again my personal bias enters into this equation. I wanted to really like Bobby, the protagonist of the story. While I didn’t dislike him, I felt as though he never really endeared himself to me.
Bobby is basically kidnapped and taken away from his parents and the only life he ever really knew. But we never get a real sense that he misses that life, but yet he says he does. Maybe a little more history on how Bobby interacted with his parents and his school life (e.g., relating with high school friends), would have made me “feel” more empathetic with his current struggles. I did, however, enjoy Bobby’s emerging friendships as they developed throughout the story. I also think these new relationships will progress quite nicely in future installments.
The above analysis is superficial at best, but the primary purpose of this review is to get to the larger theme(s) of the story. I wanted to outline my overall reaction to the book before delving into the more ethereal aspects of the intent behind it. The remainder of this review will deal with the spiritual aspects on an apologetics level. This is an apologetics blog after all.
It could be argued that every writing, piece of art, or composition is striving to communicate something that its creator yearns to share with an audience. I truly believe that all art has a set of core beliefs preceding the effort and following the finished product, whether or not the artist or the audience fully understands those beliefs. I further suggest that these beliefs almost always have spiritual implications.
R Scott Boyer’s work is no different. His book Bobby Ether and The Academy is just as religious in nature as any C.S. Lewis fantasy. There are many spiritual beliefs being communicated in his book. For the record, I find little difference in spiritual versus religious beliefs no matter how one chooses to manipulate the definitions. Whereas a religious person may look to a god, a spiritual person also looks to some “thing” whether it be a god, a created thing, or simply an idea. In the grand scheme of things there is really little difference other than which belief or beliefs may actually be true, if indeed any of them are. Many religious people that look to a god may also call themselves spiritual while many spiritual people who avoid any specific deity may call themselves religious, or at the very least mimic religious behaviors.
My analysis of Mr. Boyer’s work leads me directly to the set of beliefs being communicated, the religion if you will. Please take no offense, I am not putting words into the author’s mouth. This analysis and the words chosen are my own. I do not mean to insult or belittled anyone’s belief. But it must be clear that the interpreter interprets based on the paradigm in which he reveals himself and others and therefore the language is predefined. I am an evangelical protestant. Simply put, I believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the infallibility and divine nature of the Bible.
How well I understand and interpret an authors set of beliefs depends on how well I understand the craft or content in question and how clear the craftsman presented it. In the case of Scott Boyer’s work, I think he presented it quite well and clear. I do, however, think he is just skimming the waters in this first work, and will more fully reveal the spiritual perspectives in future writings. I think it’s fairly obvious that this book is intended to be the first of a series.
While my core set of beliefs centers on Christianity, Mr. Boyer’s, from what I can glean from his initial writing, centers on New Age Spiritualism. Similar to Christianity, and most other religions, the New Age “movement” has many differing sects and divisions. Since it would be impossible for me to pinpoint the precise definition Mr. Boyer would use based on this one book alone, I will use an extrapolated universal definition of the term. Briefly, from what I can surmise, the New Age movement is a combination of Western and Eastern metaphysical traditions emphasizing the interrelation of mind, body and spirit through psychology and quantum physics without being inclusive or pluralistic.
The primary character in Bobby Ether and the Academy finds that he has special metaphysical powers. He is brought to a place where these skills are not only to be honed, but perhaps manipulated as well. It’s interesting to note that all religions can be potentially used for good or bad, as well as be misinterpreted and manipulated. It seems that the New Age movement is no exception.
One of the basic tenants of the New Age moment is one of inclusiveness. That there is some truth in all belief systems. However, while that may be true, it does little to further the understanding or implementation of any one set of beliefs. In essence, all religions, of which I contend the New Age movement is one, could be wrong, but they cannot all be correct. However, there could possibly be one that is true. Every religion I know has something about it that contradicts the other. Therefore, by their very definitions they all cannot be true.
The Bible contends that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to the Father (God). In essence, Biblical Christianity claims there is only one way and the way is specific and narrow. So the Bible believing Christian would be opposed to the New Age idea of inclusiveness . Likewise, the New Age believer would be opposed to the Christian’s belief of exclusiveness. They are by their sheer nature diametrically opposed to one another.
Whereas the Bible’s foundation is primarily rooted in manuscripts, archeology, and prophecy, I would also contend it has a lot of science. The New Age movement seems to be primarily focused on the more abstract concepts of psychology, parapsychology and astrology as well as aspects of mainstream science. The Bible is fairly easy to quantify and critique as it is all contained in one specific collection of books. There is always an easy point of reference to contend with when dealing with the Bible. The New Age movement, however, does not readily offer a completely organized ideology, making it much harder to quantify.
Needless to say, this “review” could continue on for pages and pages. But The primary points I am trying to convey are threefold. First, Bobby Ether and the Academy is a well written New Age spiritual/religious allegory. Second, it is my contention that while proponents of the New Age movement may not readily classify themselves or their beliefs as religious in nature, that is precisely what they are. Lastly, it is important for young minds to know that what might be seemingly innocuous and “inclusive” is in fact preaching a core set of beliefs that are exclusive to many other belief systems.
In conclusion, there is a proverb that states iron sharpens iron. Although I may not “believe” in Mr. Boyer’s perspective on spirituality, I can certainly learn from his work. The Bible is the only Holy book that tells its readers to “…test (prove) all things. Hold onto that which is good,” 1 Thessalonians 5:21. I for one am glad that we humans continue to pursue truths and higher meanings. Regardless of where Mr. Boyer rests on the continuum of spiritual truth; he is searching and sharing. There is no greater calling, I believe. It is up to us, the reader and consumer to test the work while continuing on our own personal journeys in the various academies of life .
For more on the book and it’s author, please visit his website: rscottboyer.com