Friday, July 5, 2013

Book Review: The Book of Jer3miah: Premonition by Luisa Perkins and Jared Adair

Title: The Book of Jer3miah: Premonition
Authors: Luisa Perkins and Jared Adair
Enjoyment Rating: ****
Source: Kindle for iPad
This book would be rated: PG

When I find out an intriguing new movie is coming out that is based on a book I haven't read yet, I almost always make sure that I read the book before going to see the movie. I want to have the original text in mind when I see the adaptation, and I guess I want to be able to leave the theater shaking my head in disgust because "the book was better."

In the case of The Book of Jer3miah: Premonition, it's actually the book that is the adaptation. The story was originally conceived as a series of 20 web episodes, each between two and fifteen minutes, which were filmed on no budget and star BYU students and faculty. I believe that the series began as a class project by BYU professor Jeff Parkin. The series became something of a cult following, and was seen as a pioneering example of new media for an LDS audience. The story centers on Jeremiah, a BYU freshman, who is given a mysterious Mesoamerican box just minutes before his parents are murdered. He then sets of on a quest to discover the origins of the box, his own origins, and to escape from the many bad guys who suddenly see him as their main enemy.

I think that Deseret Book had a stroke of genius when they hired Luisa Perkins (whose novel Dispirited is one of the best YA speculative novels I've read) to adapt the story to novel form. I spoke with Perkins about the project several months ago, and she talked about how interesting it was to flesh out a basic story conceived by Parkin's group, to add details, and to make it her own while staying true to the origins of the story. It feels to me to be the reverse experience that many filmmakers have (fleshing out instead of paring down).

I was also interested in how Mormon The Book of Jer3miah is. It seems to be the current vogue among LDS authors to have characters who could be Mormon, but the whole issue of religion is not part of the narrative. In some ways this approach feels disingenuous to me because if you're an active Mormon, it pretty much permeates every aspect of your life. There's really no way that an authentically-created character who is Mormon would not run into some aspect of their faith and culture in a 20-page chapter, much less a 200-page novel. But I also understand why authors choose to do this-- they have a much wider reach beyond the Mormon audience. However, The Book of Jer3miah takes on all of the weird things about our culture, the things we're often reluctant to talk about when talking to an audience that includes non-Mormons (angels, being led by the Spirit, Porter Rockwell, translated beings, murder to benefit the many), and presents it without apology. I love this approach because it feels so much more real-- this is who we are-- take it or leave it. It appears that many people have taken us, weirdness and all, in the web series, and now, people like me who tend to access culture through literature may become new fans of the show. Although I haven't watched the web series yet, I have it in my queue to watch with my boys, and if they like it, you'd better believe I'll have them reading the book too.

No comments: