The Confession – Book Review

It was nice to dive into a fiction book once again, that book being The Confession from one of my favourite fiction writers, John Grisham. His last two works have been shorter – Ford County with my review here and Theodore Boone with my review here. But with his new work, Grisham returned to his normal length, crime-suspense novel of 400+ pages.

I chose to read it on my iPod Touch through the Kindle application. A few months back, I had attempted to read a more theological work from my iPod Touch (N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope) and it was not a pleasant experience. I didn’t enjoy it because I was not used to the idea of taking notes via the Kindle app, not to mention that the endnote numbers did not have hyperlinks. So I went ahead and bought a paper copy of that book (I still enjoy paper copies). But reading a fiction book through my iPod Touch was more preferable, as there was no need to take notes.

I will go ahead and say from the beginning that I greatly enjoyed the book. But I have now read all 25 of his works, so you can imagine I am a fan of Grisham (I’ve mentioned it a few times on my blog). I don’t believe all of Grisham’s books have been top notch, but, for me, this was truly one of his better novels.

It was interesting that the main character, Keith Schroeder, was a Lutheran pastor. It is my understanding that Grisham is a Christian (see this article by Ben Witherington), and such has come through before in works of his like The Testament. So there was definitely a lot of Christian overtones in the book via not only the main character, but many of the characters (with much of it being southern American Christianity, especially noting a lot of the novel took place in a major part of the Bible-belt, Texas).

Another interesting feature, at least for me, though I don’t want to give away too much, is that the book did not carry the everything-is-gonna-be-okay-perfect-ending. But I appreciate that characteristic in this book, as life doesn’t always bring such perfection. Of course, for the believer, we are assured that God is working all things together for good for His people (Rom 8:28) and He will right all wrongs in the age to come. But in this age, as we are still part of the ‘present evil age’ (Gal 1:4), we have trials and tribulations, disappointments and disillusionment, pain and hurt to deal with, some of these being extremely deep. I think it important to remember that aspect. Not in a defeatest, depressing sense. But remembering such with seasoned wisdom.

So I truly enjoyed the read and would recommend this book to those who love fiction and especially fiction of the crime-suspense genre.

Two Fiction Book Reviews

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, I have recently finished two fiction books. One of them comes from one of my favourite fiction authors, John Grisham. The second is the first in a series by a newer author, Stieg Larsson.

The first review is of Grisham’s most recent release, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. His two latest releases (this one and the other being Ford County) have been somewhat shorter than normal. He does this every once in a while, with these three books being other examples – Skipping Christmas, Bleachers, Playing for Pizza.

The subtitle of this particular novel hints at the plot – a young teenager, Theodore (Theo) Boone, has a deep desire to be a crime-solving lawyer one day. Though both of his parents are lawyers, which probably drew him into the law-scene, neither are involved in areas that would call for the solving of crimes. Even at such a young age, Theo already has an ‘office’ and is constantly giving legal advice to friends at school. He persistently visits the most important place on earth to him – the courthouse – even missing classes to listen in on cases and converse with all those busily at work in the courthouse.

But, with a high-profile local murder case just beginning in town, Theo gets his crime-solving opportunity earlier than expected after being visited by a friend with information about an eyewitness that could be just the evidence needed to crack the case. What will Theo do? How will he handle the evidence? Who can he confide in as he holds on to this dangerous information? That’s for me to know and you to find out…

I’m looking forward to the release of his newest book in October, The Confession. After the two shorter releases, this is back to his normal length.

The second novel to briefly review is the first of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium Trilogy entitled The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Because I had mentioned that I loved suspense novels, someone suggested this series to me. It is intense, to say the least, meaning, it’s not for the light-hearted and it could end up being offensive to some Christians.

Mikael Blomkvist, the main character, is a journalist in Sweden. But one day he finds himself being prosecuted following a wrongful publication, though he actually did have the evidence to dispel all charges of falsifying information. After stepping down from his journalism company, at least for a while, and with his career looking hopeless, Blomkvist is approached by Henrik Vanger, an old industrialist about a special project. Vanger offers to help Blomkvist, but there is a catch – spend one year researching the mysterious disappearance of his great-niece 40 years earlier, which will come under the guise of writing a biography of Vanger.

Reluctantly, he agrees to take on this year-long project. And after some months of pretty much fruitless research, Blomkvist invites the investigative Lisbeth Salander – ‘the girl with the dragon tattoo’ – to help him along the way. Salander is a troubled young lady in her 20’s with all sorts of issues, especially with authority. And, so, she is not one you want to mess with.

As Blomkvist and Salander dig further and deeper into the case, things start to unfold with this mysterious, long-unsolved crime. And, as usual, things aren’t as they seem with various twists and turns coming into the storyline. Do they solve this 40-year puzzle? Who are the key suspects? Are there more murders to take place in the present time? Again, that’s for me to know and you find out…

But why might this book be offensive? Basically, there are a few scenes of intense sexual description. At times, I wondered whether I should pass on finishing the book. I hear that the second book – The Girl Who Played with Fire – is even more intense with some sexual descriptions. So, as I said, this book, and full series, might not be for the light-hearted or those that could struggle with reading a couple of intense sex scenes, as I do understand the wisdom in guarding our hearts and minds.

The first book was also made into a movie and you can view the trailer here.

Book Review – Ford County

Trying to stay up on book reviews, I offer another post from a book I finished a couple of months back.

As I am sure I have mentioned before, I enjoy fiction, and specifically reading from the suspense genre. One author I frequently read is John Grisham.

His most recent book is entitled Ford County and it veers a little from the usual Grisham. Most of his books are centred around law, since Grisham was once, himself, a lawyer. But, every once in a while, John Grisham will release something in a little different vein. Such books include Skipping Christmas, Bleachers and Playing For Pizza. Now he has released Ford County, which I would say was even a little different from the three afore mentioned books.

The book consists of seven unrelated short stories. They mainly take place in the southern state of Mississippi, with some plots intertwined into my local home town of Memphis (like The Firm). This is because Grisham used to be based in Oxford, Mississippi, just over an hour south of Memphis. So he has much knowledge of the area. He now resides in Washington DC, hence some of his more recent works being set in that area.

The stories actually do draw a little on the law theme, but there is really no suspense. And, when it did arise, there was a common focus with regards to law and the work of lawyers – revealing its shortcomings. I believe I have read somewhere that John Grisham has a desire to expose the wrongs of lawyers and law firms so that true and honest practise will shine through. This book stays true to such a task.

Though I do really enjoy his main focus in writing law-suspense novels, I did appreciate this different style. It actually stirred in me an idea for a story. It is my dream to not only write theology, but also fiction. I had started such a project in the past, but had to stop just over a year ago with many other things pulling at me.

So, a new story has begun to form. Maybe this book has stirred me to resurrect my passion of writing fiction.

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.