The Abalone Ukulele: A Tale of Far Eastern Intrigue
By: R. L. Crossland
Publisher: New Academia Publishing Publication Date: June 29, 2021 ISBN:978-1-7359378-1-6 Reviewed by: Skyler Boudreau Date August 29, 2021 The Abalone Ukulele is, at its heart, a true love letter to both Asian culture and the naval experiences of sailors. A novel of naval intrigue taking place across several years and locations, Author R. L. Crossland’s intimate knowledge of sailing and various Asian cultures is on full display in his latest project. The Abalone Ukulele is a story containing many different plotlines. The overarching story is about Yi, a young Korean tribute bearer attempting to reclaim the treasure he lost while delivering it to China. This treasure was lost due to an unforeseen attack on the transport group by the Japanese. It soon spirals into a political nightmare and Yi decides that he must somehow earn this treasure back. He takes a few less than honorable roads along the way and crosses paths with the kinds of unsavory figures we might imagine in a crime thriller.
Several other plotlines follow the activities of different naval officers as Yi continues to try and collect this lost money. These other characters do ultimately tie into Yi’s story at the very end, but throughout the majority of the novel, it’s difficult to see the connection. With that seeming lack of connection comes confusion as to why they were included as the reader follows them throughout their own stories. These other adventures are not nearly as interesting as Yi’s, but they do take up substantially more page time.
The Abalone Ukulele has as many narrators as it does plotlines. As with the plotlines, Yi is by far the most intriguing. He is at the heart of this redemption quest, striving to recover the treasure he lost. All of the narrators keep the audience relatively distant, and Yi is not an exception. While he doesn’t invite readers into his head, he does show a lot of dedication to his quest and is someone that the audience is easily able to root for. His story is the one that draws the reader in and keeps them engaged. The other characters are equally distant from the reader, but do not offer the compelling qualities that Yi does.
Author R. L. Crossland is certainly a very capable and knowledgeable writer. His understanding of different Asian cultures bleed through every paragraph and his passion for this project is evident. This passion brings a unique flavor to the text that invites the reader to dive headfirst into a new environment that they may not be familiar with. Crossland is also very knowledgeable when it comes to military movement and maneuver thanks to his thirty-five years of service as a U. S. Navy SEAL. He provides a lot of information on these two subjects in long paragraphs and while the information is interesting, it’s thrust on readers very quickly. These information dumps play a big part in why the secondary plotlines are so slowly paced and difficult to get through.
The Abalone Ukulele has a lot going for it. It’s a welcoming novel for a reader familiar with Asian cultures and naval groups, but a bit difficult for a reader unfamiliar with those subjects. It’s a novel written for a very specific audience, and that’s okay. Between Yi’s quest to retrieve the lost fortune and the wealth of knowledge Crossland provides, that audience will no doubt greatly enjoy this novel.
Quill says: Crossland’s target audience will be thrilled with his dedication to detail!
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