Chronicle of the Lake

Fiction - Social Issues
123 Pages
Reviewed on 08/08/2023
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

The author is a semi-retired physician living in eastern Washington. His background includes service as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, degrees from Brigham Young University and George Washington University Medical School, 12 years in the United States Air Force, and many years' service in various medical practices and callings in the Church. He and his wife, Lisa, have six children and 10 grandchildren. Other book-length publications include THE FEDERALIST: EXCERPTS WITH COMMENTARY, ALL ENLISTED: A MORMON MISSIONARY IN AUSTRIA DURING THE VIETNAM ERA, TURNING THE HEARTS: COUNSEL FOR MY DISTANT DESCENDANTS, THE TRILLIUM GIRL, and CHRONICLE OF THE LAKE.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

In Chronicle of the Lake by Roderick Saxey, two contemporary scientists, an ecologist, and an archaeologist, discuss the history of both nature and mankind on the shores of a large lake where they both live. The conversation takes place as the two friends play chess under a maple tree on the grounds of a government research facility. This chronicle begins back in time when the humans who inhabited the area were either hunters or gatherers ruled by primitive mythology, magic, tribal warfare, and their belief in nature spirits. One tribe lived in the forest and the other at the lake. Saxey, whom we later learn helped lead Portland, Oregon, out of an environmental disaster to the shining city it now is, structures the discussion in terms of the progression of local leaders, comprising early shamans and warriors from the lake and the forest, mystics, philosophers, mercenaries, artists, intellectuals, settlers, entrepreneurs, businessmen, lawyers and clerks, and scientists.

I took the author’s smoothly written and witty piece to be a parable of mankind’s evolution concerning its stewardship of the land, especially as manifested in the competition between man and nature. Especially fascinating is this conflict regarding man’s economic interests. Dr. Miller, the story’s shrewd ecologist, makes the point that the pollution caused by technology and industry cannot destroy nature but will merely transmute it from one form to another, from species that exist without pollution to those that thrive upon it. I was deeply moved by the irony of this change from the positive to the negative. Though the author’s message cannot be misinterpreted, he does not underestimate the importance of mankind’s dependence upon nature for its economic welfare. The solution is not to eliminate industry but to synchronize it with the welfare of the natural world. The Chronicle of the Lake by Roderick Saxey teaches us splendidly how, in the long history of this one particular place, nature’s control over man has evolved to the present state of man’s control over nature. The tale is engaging, amusing, and profound.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Chronicle of the Lake by Roderick Saxey describes how a biologist and an archaeologist are playing chess while sitting beside a lake. The beauty around them transforms the simple game of chess, which they often play together, into a metaphor for life on the lake, past, present, and possible future as well. They reflect on what past inhabitants may have trod the ground on which they now sit and how they cared for the land, protecting it for future generations. After consideration, they realize that all the modern conveniences that they take for granted have come at a cost, with a huge price tag that is destroying the natural environment. The simple chess game has become a game of survival, as the two men find themselves drawn into battles between environmentalists and developers. Can they stop the mega-projects that will destroy the land they hold dear? Can they convince others to compromise, to care for the natural world around them? Does progress have to result in destructive forces conquering all?

Roderick Saxey’s novella, Chronicle of the Lake, is a deeply thought-out view of what humans have done to the planet and where this will ultimately lead. Cleverly using the symbolism of a chess match, the plot evolves from a simple game to a complex real-life situation that threatens not only the chess players but their world as well. The characters are well developed, dialogue is used effectively and helps move the story along, and descriptive narrative sets the stage for each era projected. The transitions between timelines proceed with ease so readers won’t get lost. Like Jodi Picoult, this author has chosen a complex and controversial subject and presented a compelling story to enforce an important point of view, one that we must all consider, which is saving the planet before it’s too late. Powerful writing.

Pikasho Deka

Chronicle of the Lake is a collection of loosely connected short stories by Roderick Saxey. Dr. Joe Miller, a biologist at the Biological Research Station located by a beautiful lake, invites his friend Chris Lowie, an archaeologist, for a chess game. The two friends tell each other imaginary stories about previous inhabitants of the lake and its surrounding area. A boy trains to become the next chief priest of his village alongside his mentor and, in an unforeseen turn of events, finds himself in a unique position to repel the forest people who have taken control of his village. A local farmer stays obstinate in his refusal to sell his farmland to the new entrepreneur in town until he realizes he is fighting a losing battle. In the present day, pollution from a nearby plant threatens the ecological environment of the lake.

It is a fact that human interference, pollution, and climate change have threatened to alter the ecology of our planet fundamentally. Author Roderick Saxey sheds light on this vital topic with some absorbing tales featuring characters from different periods living in tandem with their natural environments. The narrative focuses on the advent of industrialization and technological development and how it has changed the way a section of society perceives nature and its surroundings. Dr. Joe Miller and Chris Lowie are two friends, each an expert in their respective fields. It is their friendship that acts as the anchor to the overarching larger story. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Chronicle of the Lake and its focus on the increasingly relevant issue of environmental conservation. Recommended to short story lovers.