The Forbidden Man set before influences of modern civilization

Dying of thirst Lainjin drinks from the ocean


Post by Miraduteaux » 16 Jan 2023, 14:33

[Following is a volunteer review of “The Forbidden Man” by Gerald R Knight.]

The second book of an upcoming trilogy

I enjoy exploring cultures unlike my own, so I was intrigued to read The Forbidden Man by Gerald R. Knight. Although it is the second of a three book series, the story of a youth’s heroic quest to solve a mystery easily stands on its own.

With incredible detail, the adventure follows Lainjin, a young native from the what is now the Republic of the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean. Abandoned by his mother who, legend says, led her fleet of male villagers out into the open ocean, Lainjin burns to discover the truth about why she didn’t come back. On his own, he bravely sails to Pohnpei, navigating solely from the stories told to him by his grandfathers. There he meets people who introduce him to others who have more detailed information of what might have happened to his mother. Lainjin learns languages to trade, learns to trade for supplies and to trade supplies for information. He makes valuable friends to help him edge ever closer to the truth.

Depicting both beautiful and dreadful customs

Lainjin faces dangers that I, sitting in my warm, comfortable, easy chair, could not have even imagined. While the sandy beaches and deep blue lagoon waters charmed me, some of the customs he encountered were dreadful. For example, if someone violated a trading rule, they would be tied up and suspended into a watery pit overnight, where an eel was expected to eat them. There are certain tribes where a man must cut off the head of another man before he is acknowledged mature and deserving of respect. And there are tribes which are so male-centric and women-hating, I’m not sure how they allowed themselves to procreate. A wonderfully strong, capable female character, Lirojak, joins Lainjin on his journey. She makes some fabulously wry and astute observations which I very much enjoyed.

The megalithic structures of Nan Madol

My interest in ancient megalithic structures was unexpectedly engaged by following Lainjin as he discovered how the huge stone structures of Nan Madol were built. The Forbidden Man is set before any technology or influence from modern civilization. The depictions of human beings moving these colossal rectangular blocks of basaltic crystals called takai are fascinating. They also sent me to the internet to find out more about the author who so confidently describes these mysterious processes. What, I wondered, are his credentials?

Where did Gerald R Knight get his confidence?

Gerald R. Knight spent ten years as Director of the Alele Museum and National Archive of the Marshall Islands. An avid sailor and former commercial fisherman, he lived on remote Rongelap Atoll for four years studying navigation and storytelling. His understanding and enthusiasm for the area shines through.

As a non-sailor, I found many paragraphs describing sailing techniques over my head. Although I was convinced I was being told exactly what voyaging through the sea in an outrigger canoe involves, the depth of depiction often grew tedious. The language itself could also become distracting. For the most part, the poetic style drew me in. However, the displacement of the word “not” as in, for example, “she saw him not”, felt heavy handed, and each time, broke my immersion in the story. But these are very minor issues for a major work which was enjoyable, informative and thought-provoking.

I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. It’s exceptionally well edited. The e book in particular makes checking the footnotes for word translations easy.

I’d recommend it for mature audiences, as there are descriptions of sexual acts. But for any armchair traveller, amateur anthropologist, sailor or lover of epic tales, The Forbidden Man is a good read.

The Forbidden Man
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Latest Review: The Forbidden Man by Gerald R Knight

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