The Crystal Ship is an inspirational fable by Oliver Frances. I received an e-book copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated in any other way for reading the book.
Since Frances uses the very poetic language of fairy tales and fables, it may be necessary to read this book more than once before the reader completely understands the narrative thread. So, for the sake of convenience, here is a chapter outline (omitting 10 and 11, which are largely rhetorical).
1. A child playing in a garden wanders among some oak trees, soon finding himself lost in the woods.
He tries to hide behind a tree, but its branches open up like arms. The boy then witnesses a strange parade of men (or perhaps angels), leading a man dressed in rags whose rags burn him alive.
2. The reader learns the child is named Frederick, and that he'll be referred to in the narrative as Our Wise Man. He has been a handsome youth, but now he's growing older. Frederick sits in his parlor contemplating his relationship with the young man he mentors. He falls asleep and dreams about a courtroom with walls that appear to be made of a blue gas.
Frederick sees a trial being prosecuted by Satan himself, with angels serving as the defense. He is accused of not coming to the aid of the burning man, whom it turns out is the father who abandoned him and his mother.
3. In the course of the trial, the reader learns of a pair of lovers, and Frederick's soul is accused of instructing an ignorant young man, to the young man's ruin.
4. Waking from his dream, Frederick meets his mentee, Tino. Tino is also called "the coastal boy" because he comes from a small coastal village.
5. Frederick and Tino read Don Juan by Lord Byron. Tino picks up on a reference to Simon de Bolivar. Frederick tells Tino Bolivar's story, explaining that Bolivar liberated his people only to become as bad as the Spanish.
6. Frederick attends the Festival of Madonna to teach Tino a lesson about the vanity of religion. He tells Tino that Jesus was the only man who was never vain.
7. Tino witnesses the death of a young woman who is mourned by her grandparents. Tino thinks he is wise by being detached rather than grieving, but Frederick reminds him knowledge for its own sake leads to grief, and that real wisdom demands love.
8. Frederick and Tino travel to Venice. Here Tino learns that no one, not even Jesus, knows what their mission on Earth is before it's time for them to know it.
9. Tino breaks into Frederick's house in the middle of the night. He's been reading the letters from the deceased young woman and is upset. Frederick reminds Tino about how cold Tino was to her, instructing Tino that loyalty is essential for love.
12. During the trial of Frederick's soul, we learn that the young woman died by suicide. Frederick is accused of abandoning Tino, who now lives a lonely existence in the coastal village of his birth.
Frederick is found guilty.
13. Frederick's soul is taken away to be punished for his crimes. Too late, he realizes all the pain he has caused. Hypocritically, he wasn't any more loyal to Tino than Tino was to the young woman who took her own life.
At the very end of the tale, Jesus appears and says, "My beloved son, everything is love."
Book clubs and church groups may find it a good fable to read and discuss. It contains no vulgar language or adult situations, and so it is appropriate for everyone approximately 12 and up. There are a few misspellings and errors here and there, but they don't keep the reader from being able to understand the story.