The Associate and Black

I think I have communicated that I love to read fiction books, mainly of the suspense and fantasy genres. Recently, I finished two works that fall in both genres. The first was John Grisham’s new novel, The Associate, and the second was Black, authored by Ted Dekker.

With regards to my love for suspense-crime novels, one of my favourite authors has been John Grisham. I have actually read all of his books, all 22 so far, though I have just found out today that he has a new book coming out tomorrow – Ford County. I guess it’s hard to keep up with the current output of books in the modern age.

My interest in Grisham’s novels started back in 9th grade (age 14) when I did a book report on A Time To Kill (though I actually hated to read back then, but book reports were required). And now, at age 30, I have just finished The Associate.

TheAssociateIn the vein of Grisham-esque writing, this novel follows suit as it is set within the life of lawyers and law firms. The young Kyle McAvoy has just graduated from Yale Law School and, full of desire to use his degree for good, he wants to offer public service rather than rough it out in a competitive law firm. Unfortunately, McAvoy is forced into a situation not of his choosing – working massive amounts of hours in a massive law firm. How was he forced? Blackmail. A couple of people enter his life, threatening to release a video tape related to a rape accusation of five years previous when he was in college. McAvoy, thus, finds himself giving every extra moment to finding out who is behind this blackmail.

I like Grisham, as I guess one would imagine knowing that I’ve read all his books. But this was not my favourite novel of his. It wasn’t his worst (I think that belongs to either Skipping Christmas or A Painted House), but it wasn’t his best, at least from my perspective.

The reason why I don’t put it at the top of the list of Grisham books? There wasn’t enough resolve at the end of the book, not enough closure. But I must leave it at that so I don’t give too much away. In all, I will give the book a 6.5 or 7, but, as I said, I wouldn’t declare it his best work.

Next, for the first time, I dipped into a Ted Dekker novel – Black. Many Christians have been drawn into reading Dekker, he now being one of the most popular Christian, suspense-thriller novelists.

I haven’t read too many Christian fiction novels, outside of C.S. Lewis and recently reading through The Last Disciple series (an alternative to Left Behind). But, when visiting the States in September and browsing through the religious section of Barnes & Noble, I picked up some of the Ted Dekker novels, just to see what he had.

Black is one book in what is known as The Circle Trilogy. There are actually four books to this series – Black, Red, White and Green. But, the catch is that Green is known as Book O (zero, that is). Readers are told that Green could stand as both the last book of the series or the first book. I guess this must be a new device of modern trilogy writing. Or maybe it’s an old trick in the book. I’m not that up to date on these things, but I think it quite interesting.

blackWithin the novel I just finished, Black, we find the fate of not just one world, but two worlds, in the hands of young (early 20’s) Thomas Hunter. One of those worlds is basically our present world, meaning 21st century planet Earth. Specifically, Hunter lives in Denver, Colorado, though his travels take him half-way around the world. In this world-like-ours, he is trying to save the planet from a deadly virus, the Raison Strain, that will be released very soon.

The other world?

Every time Thomas Hunter falls asleep in ‘our world’, he finds himself in another world. Specifically he awakes in The Black Forest, which is ruled by the evil Teelah and his minions, the Shataiki. This other world also has another more beautiful part to it – The Green Forest where perfect humans live. Tanis is the firstborn and Elyon is their God. Thus, The Green Forest becomes a picture of life as if the fall of man had never happened, as recorded in Genesis 3.

But, unfortunately, the fall is inevitable even for this world. Tanis, the firstborn, desires to have knowledge of The Histories, information concerning the times and centuries past. Interestingly enough, Thomas Hunter somehow already knows certain bits from The Histories. With such a desire, the evil Teelah cunningly deceives Tanis into eating the fruit and drinking the water of The Black Forest, promising him information from The Histories. Following such, all hell literally breaks loose. Now, Thomas finds himself trying to save this world as well.

As I mentioned, every time Thomas Hunter falls asleep in one world, he wakes up in the next. But there is no time parallel between the two worlds. He might only sleep a few hours in one world, but it could be equivalent to numerous days in the next.

Most can see the parallel between Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and Dekker’s The Circle Trilogy. The latter is somewhat of a modern version of the former. I’m not too bothered by the similarities, though some might be in the name of literary authenticity. But I know there truly is ‘nothing new under the sun’, as one wise sage said it thousands of years ago.

I think Black was decent, but nothing that has captured me too much. I liked it more at first, but found myself losing interest after the half-way mark. I’m not sure why, but I think it was because another book had caught my interest at the time.

I suppose I will finish out the other three books at some point, but I’m not jumping to purchase the books. My one biggest complaint (though that is a strong word here) is the underlying eschatological belief that seems to come forth in the book – premillenialism. I’m not sure if I am recognising a trend or not, but it seems that most Christian, suspense-thriller writers hold to a premillenial eschatology.

How do I come to such a conclusion? Well, as one works their way through the novel, it becomes clear that the world of The Green Forest and The Black Forest is the future of Thomas Hunter’s ‘real world’ (that is, back in Denver). And when the people of The Green Forest refer to The Histories, they frequently speak of a major event of the past known as The Great Deception. Not only that, but The Great Deception in The Histories of this one world corresponds to the release of the Raison Strain in Hunter’s own world. Both represent life-shattering events, one that has already taken place in one world and one that is about to take place at any moment in the other.

I’m not sure if you’re able to pick up on the premillenial eschatology here.

Most premillenialists, especially dispensational premillenialists, believe that there will be a final, evil period on earth known as the Great Tribulation (usually the focus is that this period will be 7 years in length). One of the major teachings about this period is that it is highlighted by evil, cataclysmic events.

So, going back to Dekker’s Black, The Great Deception, which is connected to the release of the deadly Raison Strain in Thomas Hunter’s real world, seems in line with such premillenial eschatological beliefs about a Great Tribulation.

Of course, this isn’t a biggie. I simply note one small ‘quirk’ about the book, at least from my perspective. I’m just not convinced of the premillenial belief, especially that of the dispensational strand.

Still, as I mentioned, I am not sure why it is that most Christian, suspense-thriller novelists seem to be in that eschatological camp. I am saddened by what seems to be a ‘scare tactic’ employed by such authors, especially in places like the Left Behind series. I am not sure if that is Dekker’s intent, but, if so, I don’t believe it is the healthiest approach to drawing people to Christ. But that is simply my opinion.

So, this ends my review of two fiction books I have recently read. As I mentioned elsewhere, I am currently reading Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol. I have a review coming forth by the end of 2009, but that is for another day.

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