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Lyman Ditson
Desert Angels
Lyman Ditson, author

Adult; Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror; (Market)

Desert Angels is a thought-provoking adventure that takes place in the New Mexico desert. It is about a man and his dog who encounter unique characters and situations. The style is in the vein of The Little Prince.
Ditson (Please Don’t Ask) explores philosophical questions through accounts of encounters with angels in the desert, plus original poetry and some charming, Thurber-esque sketches in this short, playful, and heartfelt novel reminiscent in some ways of de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. While walking his dog, Lion, in the desert, the unnamed narrator meets several angels, each with different opinions on the meaning of life and their greater purpose, who send him further on his journey, all while the narrator wonders if this is a dream—and if he can wake up. Throughout the journey, narrator and reader both are invited to puzzle through the gently cryptic and comic pronouncements of surprising figures—flames, lynxes, a tuxedoed magician—to arrive at life lessons appropriate for older audiences from all backgrounds.

The sparsely described characters act as conduits for Ditson’s philosophical themes. The first few angels especially are creatively built: the vitamin-gulping parrot who searches for immortality and the Southern tortoise in red sneakers engage the reader, inviting some fun imaginative work to arrive at their meaning, while also advancing the plot. However, as the narrator journeys, some of the angels become less mysterious and more familiar, like a fortune teller or a scholarly owl. These characters impart the story’s clearest, most important messages but with less of a sense of play.

While set in the New Mexico desert, the narrator’s surroundings are mostly left to the reader’s imagination. Like Og Mandino or The Tao of Pooh, Ditson’s prose has the spareness and clarity of children’s books, yet is suited best for older audiences, as some of the poetry and imagery of war, hunting, and death, made more stinging by that deceptively simple prose, may be unsettling to young readers. Readers should expect a searching, imaginative discussion of life, death, immortality, and belief presented in a paradoxically lighthearted manner.

Takeaway: Charlie Mackesy, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

Great for fans of: A philosophical adventure for grown-ups finds playful angels offering truths worth puzzling over.

Production grades
Cover: C
Design and typography: B
Illustrations: A-
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B