Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Unwanted, by Daniel Carter (OakTara)

My time spent with speculative fiction is somewhat limited; however, The Unwanted is probably one of the most imaginative works of the genre I've ever read. This book has more twists and turns in it than four Bavarian pretzels--and it's only the first book in the trilogy.

Tibon, a fiendishly brilliant scientist, is on a quest to avenge the politically motivated and officially covered-up murder of his family over 25 years ago. He selects the genetic engineering and ultimate control of a race of super humans to achieve that revenge. But one day something goes terribly wrong with his plan. Two nurses flee with five of his infant subjects, all of whom had been marked for termination. The nurses lose themselves and the babies in the backwoods of Oklahoma, where, with the help of a few friends, they raise the children. Thus is the beginning of the Family.

The core of the Family comprises these five genetically altered children, each with their own unique giftings. The nurses, Janet and Michelle, had no knowledge of the genetic experimentation. Until, that is, strange things begin to occur as the babies grow and their "abnormalities" begin to manifest in shocking ways. Janet chronicles the infants' unnerving development in her journal as the women strain to cope with what is unfolding before them. Now, enter the FBI and Tibon's forces, both of whom are searching for the missing children for counterpoised purposes, and you have the makings of a volatile situation bound to explode at the crux moment. And rest assured; explode it does--in more ways than one.

Mr. Carter blends depravity and greed, love and redemption, treachery and guile, and innocence and loyalty into a fast-paced tale that will keep you turning page after page. Ultimately, you'll discover how a single man's fanatical arrogance fares against Divine purpose, and in ways you'd least expect. Cool!

I must confess that people who write this kind of stuff, and write it well, worry me. I mean, c'mon; how does a mind living in the everyday world come up with a scenario that seems so far off the wall, but then so successfully roots it in the real world that it doesn't even nudge incredulity? Does Mr. Carter know something we don't? I wonder...nah!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Book Clubs Note!

If you're involved in a Christian book club, or know someone who is, there's a great new Web site called The Book Club Network. Its purpose is to bring together book clubs and authors to review each other's needs and offerings. There are some great discussions on organizing book clubs and meeting authors whose work may interest your group. Worth checking out!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Heading Home, by John Robinson (Sheaf House)


Just when you think the Last-Days genre has been pretty much exhausted, John Robinson slips one in under the radar that knocks your socks off. Clearing the high bar he set in his previous novels, he infuses brutal force into his prose and remains steadfastly unapologetic in his message--both of which are essential to pull off a story like Heading Home.

Mr. Robinson does a great job of working on two planes of spirituality simultaneously in this story of healing and redemption. You've likely already identified the higher plane from the first sentence of this review: the redemption of mankind and the healing of a created order groaning and suffering as it eagerly awaits revelation of the sons of God. (Rom. 8:19-23). The second plane is at the personal level, and it's where Mr. Robinson excels at the storytelling. While God is attending to the cosmos, Nick Castle and CT Barnes are hard at work on the ground. Christ's return is imminent, and there's no time to lose as these closest of friends seek out former comrades-in-arms from their days in Viet Nam. Nick and CT consider it paramount to witness to the men with whom they shared the most intense days of their lives before it's too late. That's what you do for your buddies. It's what you do for God.

But there's a new battle looming, one with potentially devastating consequences. While Nick and CT search for their old friends, a satanic cult has targeted their home church for destruction, including their families, their dearest friends and themselves. No one is aware of the plot until the cult lauches its attack at the crux point of the story.

You. Will. Not. Want. To. Miss. The. Final. Showdown. Oh no, you will not.

In short, Heading Home achieves in one concise, high-powered novel what it took Left Behind to do in--how many volumes did the series finally turn out to be? All due respect and credit to Messrs. Jenkins and LaHaye, but, honestly, I gave up somewhere around number three or four. Sorry if that offends any die-hard LB fans; chalk it off to my limited attention span. In any event, if you ran the marathon with Left Behind, you'll enjoy the sprint with Heading Home. And it will leave you breathless.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Fisherman’s Testament, by César Vidal (Zondervan)

There are many excellent reasons César Vidal is an international bestselling author, and The Fisherman’s Testament is one of them.

In The Fisherman’s Testament, Señor Vidal blends superb storytelling with Scriptural truth into a powerful novelization of Mark’s Gospel. Originally penned in Spanish, nothing is lost in translation in this novel that garnered the Martinez-Roca Spirituality Prize in 2004. Consider the first sentences of the novel for a flavor of the author and his main character:

“I, Marcus Junius Vitalis, known amongst my men as the “Asiatic,” veteran soldier in the service of Rome, faithful companion of Cæsar Claudius and Cæsar Nero, know that I have arrived at the last stretch of this winding and bitter path we call life. Others will live on, be it for a shorter or longer time, but my life is ending. Before I know it, it will be utterly extinguished, and I will find myself cast onto the shores of a different world.”

It is from this perspective Vitalis relates his story of an encounter that upended his world view as a die-hard defender of Rome and staunch adherent to the ideals of the Empire, and framed his view of the “different world” now poised to receive him.
The setting is 62 AD Rome, in Nero’s palace. The Emperor commissions Vitalis to investigate a neo-Jewish cult who profess to follow the Christos. One of the last survivors of the original inner circle of the Christos, a fisherman named Petros, is imprisoned in Rome. Nero decides to lead the prosecution personally to ascertain why this cult that calls itself “The Way” did not die out after the crucifixion of its leader 30 years earlier, as so many other rebellions had in the past. Indeed, it continues to grow, with its influence now reaching into even the capital city. Vitalis joins Nero in the interrogation and hears the tale from the mouth of Petros through Mark, his companion and translator. Nero and Vitalis walk away with completely divergent impressions of the story they’ve heard.

Only 167 pages, this is a ‘quick read’; however, its impact will linger long after you reach the back cover. While nothing can replace Scripture, The Fisherman’s Testament is a worthy alternative text to recommend to someone who may never otherwise crack open the Bible. The power in hearing the Gospel is presented through the divinely inspired words of Petros and Mark, anticipated objections and misunderstandings of the message are delivered through the humanly understandable reactions of Nero and Vitalis, and the joy of reading excellent prose is delivered through the enviable literary skill of Señor Vidal. Tough combination to beat!