Picks and Pans Review: The Return of Merlin

updated 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/14/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Deepak Chopra

You don't need wizardly powers to divine the reason Chopra, author of such alternative medicine mega-sellers as Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, has tackled his first novel—he announces his didactic purposes in the introduction. And he tells you again and again through the explanatory speeches with which he frequently saddles his characters in this reworking of the Arthurian legend, until it's easy to feel like you're reading Cliffs Notes instead of the real thing.

Which is unfortunate, because Chopra's fictional foray is not without interest. His imaginative fantasy of magic and self-realization, centering on a pair of contemporary British schoolboys who mysteriously plunge back into the era of Camelot, displays real narrative flair. Sending them—and the reader—smoothly sailing back and forth through what he calls the "web of time," Chopra weaves an intriguing story that also offers plenty to ponder.

Among these themes is the value of serendipity—"the wisdom of unpredictability and uncertainty, so that you escape the prison of the known." But in his zeal to ensure that his message of self-actualization isn't missed, Chopra offers the reader little opportunity to make such discoveries. (Harmony, $24)

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