Thoughts on Christian fiction

Bill Bright & Ted Dekker’s Blessed Child August 29, 2009

Blessed Child Blessed Child by Ted Dekker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an excellent book. It was recommended to me by a big Ted Dekker fan after I complained about feeling “cheated” at the end of Dekker’s book Thr3e. He said that if I were only going to read one Dekker book, it should be Blessed Child, written with Bill Bright (founder of Campus Crusade for Christ).

This book is about a young boy named Caleb, who is raised by an Ethiopian Orthodox Christian monk. He spends all ten years of his life in a monastery, sheltered from the world at large, before being abruptly wrenched from his adopted father and home to flee for his life in a violent and heart-stopping escape. Jason, a jaded Peace Corps worker, and Leiah, a Red Cross nurse, are Caleb’s rescuers and become his guardians. They become very aware of his unique gifting, and they attempt to make the right decisions, all the while struggling with their own personal journeys of loss and grief.

It, perhaps, goes without saying that this book is well-crafted. The characters are compelling, and the reader can quickly empathize with them in their thought processes. I have said before that I believe that Christian fiction can impact readers in a deeper way for God’s Kingdom than many inspirational or nonfiction works do. This book illustrates this view in the way that Dekker and Bright envision what “walking in the Kingdom” might look like here on earth. The miracles that Caleb performs and the ultimate experiences of Jason and Leiah help the reader to fully imagine for him or herself what could be. The book’s illustrations help us to see what we otherwise might miss when our eyes are focused too much on the harsh realities of this world. Blessed Child reconnects the reader with wonder, joy, true sorrow, repentance, and childlike glee.

If there were one complaint I would make about this story, it would be that I wished for more story. The story is broken up by days passed between episodes. Had the story been written as a series, more interepisodic stories could have been added. Obviously this was not the intent of the authors. However, I would have liked to get to know the characters a bit more, slowing down with them as humans a bit more, rather than pursuing them in the frantic pacing of chaotic and tragic events.

Having stated that, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a glimpse of our future home as Christians as well as anyone else who has wondered about the discrepancy between what God calls us to and what we as Christians deliver.

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Jill Williamson’s By Darkness Hid (Blood of Kings Book I) August 16, 2009

By Darkness Hid By Darkness Hid by Jill Williamson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars I just finished reading By Darkness Hid (Book I of Blood of Kings) by Jill Williamson. What can I say but “Bravo!” to an author who has published her first novel? Williamson has done a masterful job of bringing the characters to life and drawing the reader in to care deeply about each of them. I long to re-enter the world of Er’Rets while I wait for the sequel to be published. Is the second book finished yet, Jill? The first character we meet is Achan Cham, a stray or an orphan with no remaining relatives to care for him or her. In the land of Er’Rets, strays are considered lower than slaves. Above slaves are servants, then peasants, then nobility, royalty, and council members. Teenaged Achan suffers many cruel punishments and circumstances ever since he can remember. He is forced to drink a noxious tonic every day and is beaten regularly. Early in the story, he meets Sir Gavin, an Old Kingsguard (as opposed to New Kingsguard) knight, who begins to train him as a squire–unheard of for strays in Achan’s time. We are then introduced to the story’s heroine, Vrell Sparrow, in a parallel timeline. She is a noblewoman who is disguised as a stray boy in order to avoid a revolting marriage. She is, however, in another part of the land of Er’Rets, in which strays are not treated as cruelly as they are in Sitna, Achan’s home. This does not mean that she does not suffer her share of cruelties. Despite the challenges, she remains true to her only God, Arman, and is drawn to a shared journey with Achan. Both of them share the gift of bloodvoicing, the ability to hear others’ thoughts and speak to those who share the gift. Although I had a bit of a challenge getting into the story initially, once I became familiar with the new culture and time period, the story swallowed me. One of the things that kept me from really getting into the story was that I noticed that there weren’t any simple verbs such as “walked” or “ran.” Everyone seemed to stumble, or weave, or edge, or scurry. Mostly scurry. I know that the mark of a good writer is descriptive wording, but in this case, the descriptive wording slowed me down by having me notice them rather than the story. Once I got used to the author’s style, however, I was able to dig in. Having said that, every time a character “scurried,” which was often, I felt like I got yanked out of the story. That was unfortunate, but I am a forgiving reader–especially when the story is so good! My other note is that the proofreader missed a very noticeable error. In the latter part of the book (I don’t remember which chapter it was), the word “taut” was meant (as in the character’s mouth being taut), but the word “taught” was printed. That was the only major flaw that I noticed. Several typos or misspellings were noted, but nothing more than any other novel in its first printing would have had. All in all, I highly recommend this book. I don’t know how many books will be in this series, but I eagerly await each of them. I may just have to re-read “Book I” over and over until the sequels are available! View all my reviews >>


C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra August 9, 2009

Perelandra (Space Trilogy, #2) Perelandra by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Perelandra, the second book in C.S. Lewis’s trilogy, chronicles the adventures of Dr. Ransom on the planet of Perelandra, otherwise known as Venus. Taking his knowledge and understanding from his adventures in Malacandra (in Out of the Silent Planet) of the spiritual levels of life, human and otherwise, he departs for an assignment on another alien planet. Although he has no details on what he is to do upon reaching the planet, he goes with complete conviction that it is the right course of action and that the Oyarsa, or supreme spirit being of Malacandra, has Ransom’s best interests at heart. On Perelandra, Lewis recreates the Biblical story of temptation in the Garden of Eden with Ransom acting as advocate for “Eve,” the female figure that inhabits that world. Ransom himself goes through many trials before the story’s end.

The storytelling in this novel is, of course, superb. The world that Lewis creates is fascinating and thought-provoking. He deftly weaves Biblical story and theology into Ransom’s adventures and applies them to the universe and its inhabitants at large. He manages to stretch the readers’ minds and wrap them around ideas that are much greater than ourselves. Our God is truly God of the universe. Lewis emphasizes that we do play an important role in God’s creation but we could also play just a part within a larger scope of God’s creations. The Bible is about humanity and its history with God. Who is to say what other creatures God has created to have relationships with Himself?

Of course, Lewis has written this story as fiction. Interestingly, he ends the first book with his character writing it as a fictional account about Ransom’s space adventure. This is apparently due to Ransom’s insistence that readers would not believe the story as true and would reject it. According to Ransom, if the story were written as a fictional account, those readers who would accept the account as true would see past the fictional facade and see the truth about the story. It can make your head spin if you let it. So in this series, Lewis has written a fictional story. Or do we readers “in the know” know better?

Although I really liked this story and am glad to have read it, I have to admit that some passages were a bit hard to get through. Speeches by the physicist character and certain speeches by the “eldila”, or spirit beings, can get a bit heady. However, I am still committed to reading the final book in the series, That Hideous Strength, and will post a review on that when read. I do recommend this book to those who are up for a fantastical journey and are willing to work through a few philosophical passages.

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