Annabelle's Reviews > The Skull Mantra

The Skull Mantra by Eliot Pattison
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's review
Apr 28, 2009

really liked it

I loved this book. It has such a unique and creative setting and conceit, a Chinese Detective who was a good party member but a bit too honest, is sent to the Gulag in Tibet, and is transformed by the Tibetan Buddhist priest he is imprisoned with. He becomes transformed and bonded to their struggle, trying to keep the Chinese military from abusing them more. He vividly depicts the landscape, the Buddhist subculture, beliefs, practices, and the unremitting genocidal practices of the Chinese. He also does a beautiful balance of Shan’s logical, detective mind that simultaneously cherishes the magical, spiritual world of the supernatural in Tibetan Buddhist. He also shows the political power moves interplay of power within the communist, saving face and moving blame. A Tibetan god is chopping off Chinese officials heads, and blaming rebel monks. There are many intersecting plot lines, including an American mine, poppy growing, underground Tibetan rebels, and esoterica about Buddhism. It sounds serious and pendantic, but it is fun and engaging, and celebrates Tibet.

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