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The Broken Stone and the Secret of the Heavens' Henge

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 October, 2011, 12:00am

The Broken Stone and the Secret of the Heavens' Henge
by Jonathan Morris
Handow

Jonathan Morris is a British engineer who worked on the Chek Lap Kok airport and the Tseung Kwan O MTR line. He's also an award-winning technical author, but his first foray into fiction, The Broken Stone and the Secret of the Heavens' Henge, seems a stop too far, because it fails to mind the gap between a children's book and a treatise on a pet scientific theory.

The Broken Stone is set in Neolithic times, and Morris paints a vivid, well-researched impression of family life in ancient villages. The local elders send two pre-teens, Clende and his younger sister, Marce, to attend a great tribal gathering and collect an inheritance with their old, Merlin-like teacher, Sanoc.

Morris describes their quest in a simple plot, but readers might wonder whether he is taking the trio into the mists of Neolithic Europe, or yet another Lord of the Rings-like scenario. And with characters' names such as Vivienne, Tashe, Toby, Ehrahat, Firelark and Ravenor, you might be forgiven for expecting a hobbit to spring out of the bushes at any moment.

The Broken Stone wears thin when Morris introduces his young audience to the science of solar mechanics, initially with brief descriptions of structures with wooden posts, mirrors, mounds, stone blocks and ditches.

Helpful elders then weave into the story detailed explanations of how these devices were built to follow the sun, plot the movement of the heavens around them, and record the seasons in spherical temples such as Stonehenge.

An epilogue highlights how Morris tested the temple paraphernalia in a back garden. And an involved appendix shows how the location and orientation of Stonehenge could have been just right for the job.

The Broken Stone taps youngsters' awareness of solar power, but its science might blind all but the most devoted of sorcerers' apprentices. Having created 48 illustrations over the review copy's 272 pages, Morris might convert this book into an iPad-friendly graphic novel that could be more avidly read as a school project, or better-absorbed in a TV documentary.

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