Review: Three Planets
by Paul Banham
Today I'm reviewing Three Planets: Out of body and spiritual events of my odd life by Paul Banham. The author sent me a copy, for which I am grateful.
I just finished reading the book, and I'm kind of at a loss for words here. This book is unlike any other I've read, but in a good way.
If you're looking for an OBE technique book, this is not it. There are no OBE tips, tricks or techniques. As a matter of fact, it's only peripherally related to OBEs at all. Still, I found the book both fascinating and entertaining. It's also weird.
The first thing you should know about the book is that it's really two books: one fiction and one nonfiction. However, they're intertwined and even kind of reflect one another: every other chapter is fiction and every other chapter is nonfiction. The fiction chapters are given chapter numbers from 1 to 18. The nonfiction chapters are given titles, like "Moon of OOB" and "Planet Hm."
The fiction chapters weave a complex tale of several different eras: a somewhat dystopian future where humans are forced to live underground due to the extreme heat above ground, a flooded world similar to "Waterworld" and a world where scientists race to study consciousness and interface with people's dreams in order to study dreams, record them, alter them, and even change their content. In a way it reminded me of Cloud Atlas. Some of these may have actually been dream worlds in the scientists' study. I was especially amused and entertained by his description of someone living in California, but through the eyes of a Brit: the scene from an American life described in proper British writing was beyond endearing.
The fiction chapters have some of the most descriptive writing I've ever read. Either Paul Banham is an accomplished writer of many years, or he's spent years getting ideas and suggestions from writing groups. He comes off as a "master of simile." For example, chapter 16 starts with this:
"Two blocks alone, gin scented hangover sweat was soaking through Edgie's shirt smelling like your average aftershave. The sky was jean blue, scored and scribbled on by the streetcar cables overhead." (pg. 180)The nonfiction chapters describe significant / spiritual events ("Planets") from the life of the author. They describe everything from OBEs to ghostly encounters to spiritual life-lessons gleaned from his Simon-and-Garfunkel like relationship with his musical partner, and other people in his life. They read almost like confessions of a half-guilty (but definitely not tortured) soul. Or, as the author puts it:
"I think my experiences have made me reasonably well balanced. You might have other opinions having read this book, but don't forget that this book is 'concentrated oddness.'" (pg. 199)Indeed it is. The writing in the nonfiction chapters are almost as descriptive as the fiction. I especially loved this passage near the end:
"The Minotaur was trapped by King Minos in a labyrinth designed by Daedalus and fed a healthy diet of sacrificial Athenian sports personalities and dusky maidens." (pg. 206)If I was forced to compare this book to another, the only one that comes to mind is Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig (if you've never read that, you should).
It wasn't very "enlightening," but it's so honest, so mature, so raw, and so well-written that I couldn't put it down. It's like getting dragged down a wormhole and getting dashed along the sides as you go. I'll give a short example:
"I'm starting to fear the more I divulge to you the less you'll like me but, as I said, I'm compelled to tell my stories. What I haven't told you is I'm also compelled to keep some stories back and this one was borderline." (pg. 179)
Banham's philosophy seems very much in line with mine: he walks a thin line between hard science and spirituality, affirms that consciousness exploration and mind-travel are more important than space travel.
In short: I loved it, and honestly, I don't know why. It wasn't very good, but I couldn't put it down. It was strangely enthralling and engaging.
The book is 209 pages long with decent size, font and margins: There's a good amount of content. The writing is more than just "mature." It's honest, gritty, philosophical, and deep.
I'll give it 4 stars out of 5.
26 May 2020
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