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Slammed With Jesus

Last weekend, quite by non-intent, I spent several hours rereading a good portion of the end of The Light of Eidon.

It started with a reader’s email informing me he’d gotten LOE free on his new Kindle and started reading it. At first he wasn’t sure he would like it, but by the time he’d reached Section 3, he LOVED it and downloaded the next three books in the series right then and there.

Curious as to what was happening by Section 3, I got the book down and checked it out. Section 2 ends with Abramm’s first battle in the arena where he becomes the White Pretender and Section 3 jumps ahead 2 years to Carissa’s finally catching up to him in Xorofin. I read/skimmed from there and in so doing came upon what I’m pretty sure are the problem passages that moved some disgruntled readers to leave one-star reviews on Amazon complaining about being “slammed by Christian theology at the end”, or “tricked into reading about Jesus.”

Take this exchange between Abramm and Trap on p 383:

“Of course not,” Abramm said dryly. “Nothing is ever enough with you nor will it be until I wear your shield upon my chest.”

Trap regarded him soberly. “Eidon is the only answer in this world, Abramm, and life is not about settling scores or being respected by people. It’s about his power and his worth and what he did on that hill outside Xorofin. You must come to him as nothing. But you don’t like that. You want it to be about you. Your sacrifices, your efforts to make yourself worthy.” He paused, studying the horses without really seeing them. “It’s pride, Abramm. That’s why you won’t believe.”

As soon as I read this I thought, Oh wow! Yeah, that would hit some people right between the eyes. The flesh hates the notion that it has nothing to offer, that salvation really is all about Him and His work and His worthiness while we are nothing.

Here’s another a some twelve pages later, Abramm’s viewpoint as he recalls the above-quoted conversation:

You want it to be about you. Your sacrifice, your efforts to make yourself worthy.

It was true. And yet it seemed with every decision he’d made, every action he took, he’d only made himself more unworthy. Almost as if he couldn’t help himself, almost as if some part of him insisted upon showing him how weak and helpless he was. Now he was trapped like a fish in a bowl, every good thing he might have accomplished wrenched from his grasp. He couldn’t deliver the Dorsaddi, couldn’t deliver Carissa, couldn’t deliver Kiriath — couldn’t even deliver himself.

I don’t remember having written this, and was kind of surprised how it went so straight to the point.  I was pleased, though. Yeah, those people with the 1-star reviews, they were being convicted. Whether they responded or not’s another matter, but who cares about 1-star reviews if something you’ve written has rattled them enough to react as they have?

Because another thing I’ve noticed is that the book is 432 pages long. Yet the parts that had provoked such offense are measured in paragraphs, not chapters and, with one exception, not pages. Okay, so his spiritual conversion does make for the resolution of a major plot line, but still…

Reading Reviews Again

On Sept 18 2010, K. Daru  gives a generally favorable review of the first book in my Legends of the Guardian King series, The Light of Eidon, highlighting elements of the fantasy aspects she/he thought were good, then discussing elements of the “religious” aspects of the story that were good and concluding with the following:

“And therein lies the rub. The fantasy, by itself, would be four (maybe five) stars. The depiction of Christianity, by itself, would also be four stars. But I found the juxtaposition between the two jarring. Every time the story turned to Christianity, I found myself yanked out of the fantasy world and into the present day; my mind couldn’t decide whether I was reading an epic fantasy or a modern-day conversion story. This lack of immersion makes the whole of the book less than the sum of its parts, and is what finally led me to give it 3 stars.”

I reproduce it here because it triggered a sudden realization for me related to fantasy and Christianity. For as long as I can recall, there has been discussion of Christianity in Fantasy, and the importance (some feel) of not jerking the reader out of the fantasy world with the Christianity. It has to be hidden, pontificators pontificate, or it’s flawed.

Okay, they’re welcome to their opinion, but it was the way this reviewer articulated that opinion that struck me: For some readers the fantasy world is IT. That’s what they care about. That’s why they read fantasy. That’s why they can read almost any kind of fantasy regardless of what it says because they just love the escape to another world.

I love the escape too, but it’s not the be all and end all for me. Take Avatar, the movie. Great world, but I didn’t like the story at all. I have no interest in returning there because there was no Truth in that story.

And Truth is what I love. Of course I mean Truth as revealed in God’s word, and for me fantasy — all of it, my own and others, is merely a vehicle that can communicate Truth. (See my article Why I Write Fantasy in the page tabs above) It’s the Truth that I love, that gets me excited, that I want to think about and investigate and handle. Particularly the truths related to salvation, the Christian life, the Christian’s relationship with God, the angelic conflict… That’s what I’m interested. The world is secondary. (That admission is almost sacrilege in some circles, but so be it.) It’s a means to an end, a way to bring out concepts in a new way, unencumbered by baggage that often accompanies Christian vocabulary and concepts.

For readers who also love the truth, that is what they love about The Legends of the Guardian King. Those are the ones like Christine W who said of Return of the Guardian King

“The message of perseverance and placing your faith in Eidon comes across so strongly and resonates within the reader long after the book is closed. I wanted more, but not because she didn’t finish the story or that it was lacking in something, but because it inspired me and left me wanting a closer relationship with God.”

For readers who are more interested in fantasy as a genre, in going to some new and exotic world, well, they’ll be less impressed. If they notice the Christian foundations, that’s really all it seems they do: notice. They say “Aha! Eidon is God! Ha! This is representative of Protestantism versus Catholicism and Islam. I’ve guessed the secret.”

But they don’t see or care to see the analogies to the Christian life. A person has to want to see those things. Has to be ready to see them. But what’s cool is that some of us plant, others water and still others reap the harvest.  And I see more and more how God can use these books in the lives of people who may not seem ready. Who read them and are offended, or bored, and yet for some reason feel compelled to read to the end. Even those who didn’t read to the end, who gave up midstream in disgust, even those on some level must have been ready, because they had the opportunity to read the books. So even if they don’t like what they read, and give only a three, or two or one star rating, the fact is those concepts and images and truths have entered their souls.

And, whether they accept or reject them,  the Word of God does not go forth void.

Tricked Into Reading About Jesus

Reviews have been increasing on Amazon for my novel The Light of Eidon ever since the Kindle version came out for free, and last week I found a really cool one, though it’s not at all what you might think. For one thing the reviewer gave it only one star (and probably would’ve given it a zero were that possible):

 I hate being tricked into reading about Jesus, June 3, 2010

By M. S. “M.S.” – See all my reviews

Amazon Verified Purchase  This review is from: Light of Eidon (Legends of the Guardian-King, Book 1) (Paperback)

This book started out as a decent fantasy novel that dealt with an interesting premise–What if you were a good guy who had been raised by the bad guys? How would you know? If you discovered it were true, how would you move forward? It’s a really cool idea, but the author ruined her own novel by the end.

Pros: The plot was fun and the characters were likable and showed enough development.

Ok Cons: There was a thread of deep sex negativity that ran through the whole book, but it seemed consistent within the universe. A minor point, but many of the character names were so similar that it was difficult to keep them straight. Also, there was a theme of anti-Middle Eastern racism that seemed misinformed rather than malicious, but still made me uncomfortable.

The Bad Con: What completely killed this book for me was getting slammed with Jesus right at the end. I find religion interesting and I’m always pleased when authors think seriously about it in scifi/fantasy novels set in other universes. However, because this book is marketed as fantasy and NOT as Christian literature, I was offended when all of a sudden the main character was converted by a mythical savior who was the only one in the whole universe that could pay the debt of humanity and was killed in order to absolve them of their wretchedness. Seriously? The Bible was already written once. Leave us happily-secular fantasy readers alone. Also, the proselytizing felt forced and jarring and it completely wrecked the otherwise easily flowing plot line.

One of the most offensive parts of the whole thing was the ending discussion, which claimed that those people who resist conversion the hardest are the ones who are somehow the most fated to have religious conversion experiences. It totally disregards the major break the main character made with his family and his culture. His insistence on trying to convert his sister drives the wedge between them deeper. I think destroying a family, whatever its shape, is one of the world’s greatest evils and I will never condone a story that prioritizes selfishness (even religious selfishness) above family. Why should the main character insist that his sister abandon her support network just because he chooses to abandon it himself?

Anyway, to summarize: This is a book about Jesus. If you’re looking for a genuine fantasy novel, look elsewhere. (Emphasis mine)

Awesome! I am so jazzed by this review, first because she got it! With some readers I’m not always so sure. One lady, who was a personal acquaintance, was all excited about Abramm’s journey, but didn’t really seem to understand it was Christian. This reviewer, however, got it without question. Not only that, she more or less put the gospel message into her review!

I was also intrigued by her claim that she had no idea the book was Christian. I could maybe understand if she had read the Kindle version — though even a cursory glance through the information regarding the book on the Amazon page shows that it’s Christian allegory. But she’s reviewing the paperback, one she bought through Amazon. Granted the back cover blurb and the first two endorsements don’t clearly state the story is Christian allegory either, but endorsement number 4 does and is offered by Christianity Today, no less. Those that follow are also clear. Finally the second line of the acknowledgements right before the map leaps into the issue of my faith, so it’s really odd she wouldn’t have seen anything that might have tipped her off. But not an accident.

I am sure that she was indeed “tricked” — by God the Holy Spirit.

Because from what I read of her “other reviews” she doesn’t seem much of a match for the book, and I could not imagine why she’d choose to read it in the first place.

List of other items reviewed by M.S. (with my commentary):

–4 books on learning Arabic, all “excellent”
–a CD supplement to the above, also “excellent and very useful”
–high thread count Egyptian cotton duvet and sheets set, both “excellent”
–a pair of purple pumps, which are “adorable,” but not of made quality materials, and itchy around the trim but still two stars better than reading about Jesus
–a pair of black, 4″ heeled, ultrawide shaft thigh boots, which are a bit wide at the top and too stiff, but “decent boots” nonetheless, and also two stars better than reading about Jesus
–a “wonderful” ergonomic kneeling posture chair
–two different types of perfume, both “fabulous”
–a four-star tabletop, magnifying make-up mirror
–An absolutely wonderful book (five stars) about “the Iranian side of the Iran-Iraq war and the martyrdom culture in Iran. [One which is highly recommended] to anyone who is interested in learning more about the day-to-day reality of Iran”
–some dark brownish red nail polish, and some bluish purple nail polish, both of which are also significantly (4 stars) better than reading about Jesus…

LOL. The most ironic part of all is that she seems to be on a very similar story arc to the one Abramm took in LOE. At least in the sense that she is fighting the truth every bit as fiercely as he did, and yet, clearly being drawn as inexorably as he was. I am praying for this person. I invite my readers to do likewise.

More Positives Than Negatives

I’m completely wasted. Will probably go to bed right after I finish this.

Our dinner with the out of town guests was delightful. We didn’t know them very well to start with, but we know them much better now. It was a fun evening and we really enjoyed them and their two young sons. We both wished we had more time (They came from the same town, Wasilla, as Sarah Palin.)

My mother may be out of her hospital room and on to rehab tomorrow if they can find her a bed — either at the hospital where she’s staying or a separate rehab facility. Her caregivers say she’s “walking like a champion” — today she doubled the distance she walked over yesterday — we think she’s off pain medications, or at the least only on pills, and she’s having less and less trouble getting up to use the bathroom, though she still must do it with the help of her assigned medical technician. Today she pretty much ate the food I brought for her, which was much better than the hospital’s offerings.

If she does get to rehab tomorrow, the doctor said she’d probably be there a week.

Also, The Enclave received another very kind review by Kaci Hill over at Fiction Addict. You can read that here. Thanks, Kaci. And I want to note, more to myself than anyone, that now there have been two kind reviews to counterbalance the negative one I mentioned the other day. And a really nice email from a reader as well. Why is it we are so prone to focus on and magnify the negatives when often there really are more positives?

A Good Review

So do you think it’s just a “coincidence” that today I received a good review of The Enclave, to counterbalance that bad one I got yesterday? I don’t . And I”m very thankful for the timing and the review.

You can read it at Relz Reviews where I was supposed to turn in a character spotlight of my characters and have simply had no time, nor energy to do so.

Today ran pretty much along the same lines as yesterday. And tomorrow would have been easier except that suddenly we have unexpected visitors from Alaska who will be driving down from Phoenix just to join us for dinner!  I don’t think that timing’s an accident either…

My mom is doing well, though she thinks she should be recovered in 5 days and so thinks she’s not. But she was up several times and even walked down the hall. Alas, the food issues remain and since the cafeteria folks don’t seem to have a clue, I just brought in food for her today.

CLJ print review of RotGK

Back in July, Christian Library Journal reviewer Donna Bowling emailed to inform me that the Journal is back in hard-copy publication and that her review of Return of the Guardian King is on pages 8 and 9 of the June 2009 edition with RotGK’s cover serving as the cover illustration for the same edition. Cool!

For excerpts from this review, click here to read my post on Writing from the Edge back in 2007


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