Verdict: This earnest effort at an enlightened humanistic philosophy is sometimes thoughtful, sometimes simplistic, but thoroughly approachable for all but the most zealous readers.
THE LAST FAITH begins with a prologue in which the author, Karmak Bagisbayev, tells us that since he was small, he asked a lot of big questions: Why are some people considered beautiful? Why is human cloning considered so taboo? Why do some people cheat on their spouses? Does society need spirituality? He attempts to answer all of these questions—and more—in a few simple axioms arising from an imagined conversation with God, putting the book right in line with philosophical literature stretching back to Plato.
Bagisbayev informs readers that they do not need any kind of specialized knowledge to comprehend his book. His style is very approachable, and the chapters usually cover one topic and only last for a few pages. In fact, it’s so approachable that some readers might be tempted to consume half the book in a single sitting, but there’s dialogue in the narrative suggesting where to pause and reflect.
Most readers will find Bagisbayev’s conception of the divine an affable, albeit hands-off, deity. Hardcore believers might reject Bagisbayev’s overly casual God, and hardcore atheists might be disappointed to find out that he’s a nice guy, but everyone else should be fine. Bagisbayev calls himself “an atheist believer” in the book’s subtitle, and his character in the text is certainly spiritually flexible. The author holds PhDs in physics and mathematics, so it makes sense that he communicates and thinks in straight lines. Some readers might find that thinking to be a bit too reductionist at times, and a bit too optimistic at others, but he brings up some intriguing points about the biological drives of human behavior early in the book. Still, it’s interesting to note that Bagisbayev uses more scientific research to back up his biology and more interpretation of literature when he gets into humanistic philosophy.
Frustratingly, THE LAST FAITH lacks an index. Despite the brevity of the book, it would be nice to have a reference for some of the terms and topics discussed within. Another issue is with the style. While Joanna Dobson’s translation of the original Russian text is usually fluid, it can come across as overly simplistic in some spots. Of course, it’s the book’s simplicity that makes it an easy read for any armchair philosopher interested in biology, culture or ethics, as well as anyone pondering Bagisbayev’s endless stream of questions and looking for a new perspective.
~Colin Newton for IndieReader