Category Archives: Authors-Favorite

Now That the Movie THE SHACK is Coming Out in theaters …

shack-cover-noncomm-no-modI published this post a while ago when I first read The Shack. The original post was lost when my WordPress server had to be decommissioned. Now that the movie version is coming out, this may be of interest.

‘The Shack’ by William P. Young

Warning: If you haven’t read The Shack and are planning to read it, leave this review until later since I do discuss the content.

My overall rating is 4 stars. The Shack is a thought-provoking book well worth reading.

The Shack is a novel that tackles very difficult questions in a way that puts the reader in the very middle of the action and challenges him to tackle the questions in a personal way..

Mackenzie Allen Phillips lost his young daughter to a serial killer. MacKenzie called this trauma, which tormented his life, THE GREAT SADNESS. One day he receives a letter from Papa (his wife’s personal name for God) that invites Mackenzie to meet ‘Papa’ at the shack in the woods where Missy, his daughter, was brutally murdered. The shack is the last place in the world he wants to go, but eventually he decides to go without telling his wife.

God appears as three people (Papa, Jesus and another woman called Sarayu (wind)). Mackenzie is able to watch them interact, watch them serve him, and answer his questions. What Young achieves are scenes that are not simplistic, but rather convey to the readers the complexity of fashioning and then sustaining a world that has free will, independent agents that make moral choices (e.g. human beings) and God. Although God is All Powerful and Good yet He still has to work within His own rules and His own character and honor the free choices made by human beings.

For me, this book caused me to think about who God is and how simplistic my own caricatures of Him are because of the unconscious assumptions I bring to the table when I think about Him. For example, as C. S. Lewis has pointed out somewhere, in God moral character and will must coincide in some fashion. For human beings, morality is something objective that is above us, and we have a duty to obey these moral imperatives. However, if God had moral imperatives in the same sense we have, then He wouldn’t be God, since the moral law would be above Him. On the other hand if moral law were simply an invention by God, it would be arbitrary. As I read the book, I had to grapple with this conundrum. I saw that this fusion of morality and will in God is one of the things that puts Him beyond my understanding.

If you go to amazon.com, and read comments on this book, you will find many that laud it, and some that most emphatically do not. Some of the objections are theological. Respondents argue that the book fails to properly account for some point of theology. I think that claim is fair, but it misses the point. Young has written a novel and wanted to bring us into an interaction with the person of God in a new way. I think it is better to learn what one can from the book, without trying to make it into a theological treatise.

If you’ve read the book or watched the movie, I would like to know what you thought of it.

 

THE HALCYON DISLOCATION featured on Kay MacLeod’s Indie Advent Calendar

THD-2_Front_PageMy novel The Halcyon Dislocation was featured on December 19th on Kay MacLeod’s Indie Advent Calendar. Why not check it out?

Check Out Featured Indie Authors at Kay MacLeod’s Author Advent Calendar

advent-calendar-indieFantasy author, Kay MacLeod had a wonderful idea—why not set up an online advent calendar that features Indie authors from many different genres?

It starts today. Why not check it out?

Review of Jean Chamberlain-Froese and Patricia Paddey’s GAME CHANGERS

Here is my review recently published on Goodreads:

The Game Changers: True Stories About Saving Mothers & Babies In East AfricaThe Game Changers: True Stories About Saving Mothers & Babies In East Africa by Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Game Changers is a powerful and moving book that gives a snapshot of the lives of key leaders, healthcare workers, and teachers in Uganda as they struggle to solve the huge problem mother-and-child deaths during pregnancy and delivery. Through the lives of front line workers, Dr. Jean Chamberlain-Froese (the founder of Save The Mothers) and Patricia Paddey (a journalist) provide heart-wrenching accounts of the magnitude of the problem as well as a look at the courageous men and women that are working to solve it in East Africa.

This book will move you and also give you a sense of hope as you see the commitment of these Ugandans, see how their deep faith moves them to action, and marvel at the progress that has already been made. It will also leave you (as it did me) with a profound sense of gratitude that we are not forced to go through the same trials here. The Gamer Changers is worth reading several times and can also be picked up and read in short sittings. I highly recommend it.
View all my reviews

On Steven Erikson’s Preface to GARDENS OF THE MOON

gardens-of-the-moon-coverI’ve just started reading Steven Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon (Steven Erikson is the pseudonym of Steve Rune Lundin). My edition has a preface by Erikson telling a little bit about how the story came about.

As an author, its always interesting and instructive to read other people’s descriptions of how their stories took shape. One quote in particular caught my eye and got me thinking. Erikson was explaining why his book took a long time to get published and he mentioned how “Gardens marked a departure from the usual tropes of the genre [fantasy]”, and he went on to say that his work followed in the footsteps of Glen Cook …

“I could certainly strive for the same tone of dispirited, wry cynicism, the same ambivalence and a similar sense of atmosphere [in Cook’s books]. Maybe I was aware of the swing away from Good versus Evil, but that just seemed a by-product of growing up—the real world’s not like that, why persist in making Fantasy worlds so fundamentally disconnected with reality?”

Now I haven’t read Glen Cook’s books and I must say reading a story with a “tone of dispirited, wry cynicism” is not a comment on a book’s back cover that would move me to rush to acquire it. But is Erikson right? Is the sense of a battle between Good and Evil that’s so central to The Lord of the Rings “fundamentally disconnected with reality” as Erikson states?

I don’t think he is right. First of all, the nature of reality is not a settled question, otherwise we would all agree on it’s exact nature. Now what I believe Mr. Erikson is saying that in his understanding of the nature of reality, Good versus Evil is a view that he discarded as he grew older.

As a theist and a Christ-follower my convictions about the reality of a cosmic battle between Good and Evil have only grown stronger as I have grown older. I live with great hope. It’s not that I don’t see the pain and suffering around me (indeed Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings had a great deal of loss, pain, and suffering) but I believe we are somewhere in the middle of our story, and so we feel like the defenders in the last desperate hours of the siege of Minas Tirith or Frodo and Sam felt as they set out on the last impossible attempt to the Cracks of Doom. But its not the end of the story. There is an ending coming where Good triumphs over evil. Those are my convictions about reality which give me great optimism. Given my view of the nature of reality it seems to me it makes good sense to write stories that have exactly those story lines.

Steven Erikson’s book has already given me much to think about. I expect to have more to contemplate as I progress through the story.

I’d be grateful if you checked out my books at Amazon.

Review of SKY GHOSTS: THE NIGHT BEFORE

Sky Ghosts: The Night Before (Sky Ghosts #0.5)Sky Ghosts: The Night Before by Alexandra Engellmann
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sky Ghosts are superhuman freedom fighters that clandestinely fight renegades of their kind (beasts) in order to protect the innocents, that is the rest of us, from the beast’s depredations. Sky Ghosts: The Night Before, like the sequel is filled with non-stop action, martial arts and blade combat interspersed with gallows humor. I enjoy that and I find Alexandra Engellmann handles the action scenes very well.

This novella (my e-book was 40 pages) is easy to read at one sitting and will let you know if you want to go on to the much more substantial Sky Ghosts: All for One.

As I understand it, from Alexandra Engellmann’s biography, english is not her first language. I would not know that from the quality of the writing. Indeed, I had a few complaints about word construction and unexpected point of view changes in my review of Sky Ghosts: All for One, but I find these little grammatical intrusions have disappeared in this later work.

A word of caution: I enjoy stories with lots of action. This one has a  lot of “hacking and hewing” mainly of beasts. At times the language is also quite strong.

View all my reviews

Review of SKY GHOSTS: ALL FOR ONE

Sky Ghosts: All for One (Sky Ghosts, #1)Sky Ghosts: All for One by Alexandra Engellmann
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sky Ghosts: All for One is a fast-paced, action-filled fantasy that kept me engaged from the beginning to the end. The beings, Sky Ghosts, are a faction of super humans (they can fly, have extraordinary strength, and can heal themselves of injury) that at night battle their evil counterparts (Beasts), led by a corrupted, but very powerful former Sky Ghost called Eugene.

The story begins with a fortuitous rescue of two regular humans (Chad and Dave) by Sky Ghosts Jane and Pain (Patricia) in New York City. As the story unfolds, Dave and Chad have an interest to Eugene that causes him to do his best to kill them. Their protection and ultimate significance to the Sky Ghost cause is the enduring theme of the story.

My rating of three stars means that I liked the story a lot, but would not read it a second time. This really should have been a four star story (meaning I would come back to read it over and over again). However, the author often changes point of view within a scene so, as a reader, I’m surprised suddenly to find myself in different character’s head. There are also grammatical imperfections and sometimes the wrong word is used.

Having said that, I found this story contained a wonderful, exciting plot, with characters I found interesting and that I cared about. If you like fast-paced, plot-driven fantasy with strong female leads, I think you would enjoy this book.

A word of caution: I enjoy stories with lots of action. This one has a  lot of “hacking and hewing” mainly of beasts. At times the language is also quite strong.
View all my reviews at Goodreads

G. K. Chesterton on Paganism

The Everlasting ManI have been reading G. K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man. This book, first published in 1925, has much to say to a 21st century reader. For me, the early chapters generated one of those wonderful intellectual events, when on reading Chesterton’s account, a number of disparate puzzles coalesced for me and came together in an ‘ah hah’ moment.

Let me explain. In chapters V-VII, Chesterton describes three strands of paganism which ran side-by-side: mythology with all of its fantastic stories; philosophy, particularly post-Socratic philosophy which has given our civilization so much; and those strands of paganism which worshiped demons and were linked with human sacrifice such as Moloch worshipers in Palestine and the Aztecs in the new world. In one sense these three strands were contradictory. How could philosophically rigorous thinkers participate in rites and observances related to Bacchus? How could peoples who at least believed in objective values, as Lewis calls it, the tao (The Abolition of Man), degenerate into human sacrifice?

Chesterton showed how these strands really represented three attempts to connect with the spiritual. Mythology was an act of the imagination. Philosophy was an act of reason, but the two always remained separate, if parallel, strands of connection to the spiritual Other. The darker strand of demonology and human sacrifice, was more pragmatic than the other two. At some point, reason and imagination were abandoned and people sought for what worked. And so dark powers were invoked, requiring hideous sacrifices, all to a pragmatic end – they’ll give us the power that we want.

Chesterton goes on to point out that synthesis between the philosophical strands and the imaginative yearning for mystical experience were only thoroughly synthesized in the Middle Ages. From my own reading I can see how Thomas Aquinas was able to bring reason, faith, and mystical experience together. Perhaps this is why pagan societies, for all their shortcomings, were often very open to the Gospel. The imagination, reason, along with objective value had prepared them.

One final point. In my last post, I discussed the book Living at the Crossroads. It was interesting to see how in our current age the imaginative strand and the logical strand have parted company again. We have Postmodernism (imaginative strand) and Modernism (logical, data-driven strand) existing side by side. We yearn for the beauty and meaning of Postmodernism and yet fall back to the sterile world of data and logic because in some sense it is more connected with reality and outcomes. We have lost the synthesis.

If you have read The Everlasting Man, I would appreciate hearing what you thought of it.

Thanks for reading,

Peter