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Jonah and the Bony-Finned Asteroid Fish 

Transports the Jonah story from the Bible to a science fiction mode. Well told if scarcely believable at times 


JonahJonah and the Bony-Finned Asteroid Fish
By Jo Sheringham
Bible Society
ISBN No: 9780564047376
Reviewed by Moira Kleissner

Re-telling Biblical stories is not easy, if one is true to the concepts within the tale, the original receptive culture and transference to a cogent modern world. So, receiving this book from the Bible Society publishing house excited me. The idea of transporting the Jonah story from the Bible to a Science Fiction (SF) mode is a very good one. I was intrigued, being an avid fan of SF in my teenage years, and still enjoying and laughing at “Red Dwarf.” I looked forward to a good tale and Jo Sheringham can certainly tell an absorbing one.
Jonah is reinvented as a semi-retired space travelling prophet. A somewhat strange character in a SF story but he is beautifully drawn and there is much humour which enlivens the tale. The message of scripture is certainly there but how well it sits in an SF tale, I’m unsure. It did draw me in though, as the hapless prophet, almost like a Frank Spencer astronaut, found himself in many funny but sticky situations.
The adventures of Jonah are well told with good use of language, humour and description. However, I found the italics introductions to some chapters, representing Jonah’s internal dialogue with God, interrupted the flow of the narrative. Would they have been better at the end of the chapters, or incorporated into the tale? Probably the latter, as it made the story a bit clunky, jolting us from the humour and excitement of the main adventure into a more reflective mode.  
However, there were some anomalies in Jonah’s SF world. Would inter-galactic spaceships serve soup and do washing -up? Would they use knives and forks? Would you send post-cards? Gravity outside planet earth? Would space travellers have a bath? Maybe they would in Jo Sheringham’s fictional space travelling world. However, I found too many jolts between our world and this far distant inter galactic adventure to make it a believable universe. But it was such fun to read!
Because the story was so well told, the judders of the weird old spaceship that Jonah travelled in and the somewhat weak ending of this slim volume, still made the book worth reading and enjoyable. It gave me many an out-loud chuckle. Including a modern biblical version of the book of Jonah at the end of the novelette was an excellent idea from Bible Society and reminded us of the original Scripture.
As to audience: I’m not sure that I would give it to someone who did not know the biblical story. But I could see it being very successful with some youth groups, in story-telling-reading sessions at a children’s/teenage camp. And if you enjoy “Red Dwarf” …………… a must.

Mrs Moira Kleissner, Baptist minister’s wife and retired primary teacher, retired writer/trainer of CURBS project for children 

Baptist Times, 10/10/2019
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