Reviews of Ten Lost

Book Review: THE JEWISH PRESS 8-1-08
Book Review of Ten Lost: The Prequel to Aleph Shin

by Sender Zeyv

The action of this novel, which I would characterize as a Jewish techno-thriller, precedes and explains the events in Aleph Shin, published with great success eight years ago. Aleph Shin’s success was based on several factors: it was written with talent, in a flowing, clear, intelligent style; it had a well constructed plot that captured the reader with an enjoyable sense of suspense; and it had a solid foundation in its thought in Torah. Mr. Zeyv based Aleph Shin on sources in Tanach and the rabbinic writings, of which he has a broad and deep knowledge, and constructed the action with a fine grasp of history, science, and technology as required by the nature of his plot line. To summarize a complex plot in one sentence, Aleph Shin concerned a near future war in Israel and the emergence of a new leader of the Jewish people.

Ten Lost takes up the plot in the years well before the action of Aleph Shin and fills us in on how the action and events of that book were set up. The title is a pun, simultaneously referring to the ten lost years of the protagonist’s life – lost to Torah learning while on a ten year odyssey – and of course also to the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel, a subject taken up in fictional or speculative historical contexts many times before but never, in my opinion, with such thoughtfully integrated Torah basis combined with exciting writing.

 At the novel’s start our protagonist, Menachem Shabazi at age 21, is met at his home in Sana, Yemen by Elkana, an emissary from a group of Levites exiled by the Babylonians. An expert in the repair and care of traditional musical instruments, initially he is given the charge of restoring an ancient kinnor, preserved by these Levites from the First Temple. Then, he accompanies Elkana on a journey, which provides him with skills, resources and knowledge.

In the course of his travels Menachem must find and gain clues from the hidden remnants of the Lost Tribes to pursue his mission. This section was, in my view, the very best part of the book. Mr. Zeyv has made the references, statements, and prophecies regarding the Ten Lost Tribes come to life in a strikingly vivid, realistic, coherent and believable way. The encounter of the warriors of the Bnei Dan with the Dalai Lama, in which an ancient relic vital to Menachem’s mission is transmitted, is especially well written and thought provoking.

As the tale continues, Menachem has several other adventures, all cleverly based on historical events. Also, in the course of these historical encounters, Mr. Zeyv is able to present a penetrating and thoughtful analysis of modern Israeli history. For this valuable commentary alone, Ten Lost would be more than worth reading.

This book is best enjoyed with Aleph Shin fresh in one’s mind, and I would recommend reading or rereading that first if one has not read it since it came out. Amazingly, TMS Publishing Company has included the entire second revised text of Aleph Shin in the same volume with Ten Lost, and at price of one hard-cover novel!

Ten Lost shares some of the qualities of Aleph Shin, specifically its well constructed and cleverly integrated plot, good writing, and remarkably scholarly foundation. It must be acknowledged, however, that it lacks Aleph Shin’s level of suspense and excitement – the very nature of it being a prequel seems to preclude that.

I found Ten Lost both an enjoyable read and highly thought provoking, a combination we find too rarely in a contemporary novel. My only criticism is the large number of fighting scenes; though integrated into the plot structure, they were not so much to my personal taste. That being said, I would consider this book very good value indeed to buy for oneself or as a gift. Many of us are very careful with our time in reading fiction, which is commendable. But Mr. Zeyv’s new book is more than a novel, and worth the time. I recommend it warmly.

Etan Savir The reviewer is a resident of Baltimore, received his A.B. summa cum laude in Classics from Princeton University in 1983, his M.A. in Classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1986, and his M.A. in Mathematics from Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas in 1994. He is Mathematics Department Chair at Garrison Forest School, a college preparatory school in Owings Mills, Maryland.

Sender Zeyv has done it again!

In Ten Lost, the master of modern Jewish historical fiction brings eager readers of his previous book Alef Shin an equally compelling tale describing the origins of the astonishing story he told there. When you pick up Ten Lost, you will find it impossible to put down as you take a panoramic and fast-moving tour through history and geography. It is a book where the action never ceases, and the next step is always unpredictable.

Covering events spanning Jewish and world history from the time of the First Temple to the latest headlines, the book provides an intellectual and emotional experience that will make you think in a new way about Judaism and Zionism.

When you put it down, you will find yourself asking questions about how the State of Israel arrived at the position it occupies in the world today, and how events might have turned out differently.

Yaacov Marsh is a former Washington speechwriter who writes a weekly political news commentary for a major Jewish newpaper.

This fascinating tale of the adventures of the mysterious hero traces his development from humble origins through his extraordinary experiences on his Ulysses-like odyssey across continents to restore the remnants of the scattered and lost treasures of the nistaros of antiquity. A fabulous fable written in Sender Zeyv’s incomparable style sharing with us the rest of his epic story. Simply marvelous!

Rabbi Simcha Baer,
Renowned Torah scholar and teacher, Baltimore

Reviews: Aleph Shin