Category Archives: Fiction

We Mourn the Death of . . Wait! He’s Back!

Marvel Comics revives Captain America. No, the original man did not come back to life, but another character has taken up his mantle.

. . . killing off Captain America last year seemed to give him new life with readers. The editor was taken aback when newspapers even carried obituaries on the character. “Not since the 1940s have we seen Cap being this popular,” he said.

Why doesn’t Captain America have a good–I mean, good–movie yet? Maybe there will be one in 2009.

Aliens, Wormholes, and the Really Big Questions

“If you want to read books that tackle profound philosophical questions, then the best — and perhaps only — place to turn these days is sci-fi. Science fiction is the last great literature of ideas,” writes Clive Thompson in Wired. (via Books, Inq.)

I’m not sure Thompson is right, because crime fiction or mystery explores some deep ideas about humanity, community, God, and life. I think science fiction may be the best label for this kind of praise because it can include almost any story with unreal elements, even overriding other genres or labels. When Thompson starts throwing out examples to support his argument, he picks three fantasy series first.

Coming Soon to a Bookshelf Near You

Buzz Girl has news on a few new books coming out this year. Here are ones I found interesting.

  • The U.S. Poet Laureate has a book of poems coming in April.
  • Buzz Girl writes about Ursula K. Le Guin’s new novel, “Unlike anything Le Guin has done before, this is an imagining of Lavinia, the king’s daughter in Vergil’s Aeneid, with whom Aeneas was destined to found an empire.”
  • She says there will be a marketing splash made by Master of the Delta by Thomas H. Cook, a “literary mystery by a writer’s writer.” I haven’t heard of Cook, but I’m interested in literary mysteries and strong writing.
  • She reports “HarperOne is the new identity for HarperSanFrancisco, publishing books on religion, spirituality and personal growth.” They have a couple books on politics and faith or religion coming soon. First, Jim Wallis thinks he’s gotten something to say in The Great Awakening: Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America. I don’t care if the “religious right” label goes the way of the world, but if Wallis thinks the country has rejected conservative faith as exercised in government, he needs to get around more.
  • Second from HarperOne is God in the White House: A History–1960-2004: How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush by Randall Balmer. Could be interesting.
  • Bart Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus, continues to criticize his Creator and display his twisted faith in secondary sources with a new book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer. Perhaps this one will inspire several response books too, just as his other one did.

In other news, Andrew Kalvan’s next book is coming this summer. Empire of Lies deals with a man with strong faith and a solid family who came from a violent life which comes back to haunt him. He is thrown into “a murderous conspiracy only he can see and only he can stop—a plot that bizarrely links his private passions to the turmoil of a world at war.”

Shorter Classics

Frank Wilson writes about a publishing company who have abridged some of the great works of the past. He begins:

The last commandment in Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing (Morrow, $14.95) declares that an author should “try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.” The people at Phoenix Press think a number of classic authors were negligent in observing this rule. Anna Karenina, for instance, weighs in at a whopping 800-plus pages. Who can possibly hope to read that and still have time to watch Dancing With the Stars? . . . And there’s the rub, as Hamlet might not say, if a Phoenix editor thought better of it. There is nothing inherently wrong with what Somerset Maugham called “the useful art of skipping.” Maugham himself in fact helped produce a series of abridged classics in 1948 called “Great Novelists and Their Novels.”

How much skipping do you do in your reading? I have a hard time with it, but I have done it. I remember skipping chapter 13 of The Silmarillion.

Better to Speak the Language of “Once Upon a Time”

The Jollyblogger talks about the power of story in connection with Pullman’s Golden Compass.

Christian apologists have spent years and years attempting to show the reasonableness of Christianity, and have claimed many victories. Yet the religious landscape around us suggests that whether or not we have persuaded many heads, we continue to lose ground in capturing hearts – so let me join the chorus of those who are saying that we need to learn better to speak the language of “once upon a time.”

The Books are Dark, but the Movie May Not Be

File this under Waiting to See. I gather that several people have seen the Snopes article on the upcoming movie, The Golden Compass. The outcry is that the movie will be as atheistic and anti-church as the books are, but I don’t know that to be true yet.

Months ago when we first talked about this, I remember reading the spiritual themes of the movies would not be like the books. That belief is backed up by this EW article, in which Catholic actress Nicole Kidman says, “The Catholic Church is part of my essence. I wouldn’t be able to do this film if I thought it were at all anti-Catholic.” The article reports, “Conspicuously absent, for instance, is any reference to Catholicism; instead, the malevolent organization that snatches children to surgically remove their souls is referred to in the movie only as the Magisterium.”

So the movie may not be the atheist tract some are thinking it is, regardless what the author says about the books. It is the movie coming out in December, not the books, which have been around for several years, so (perhaps this is a point too technical) Pullman did not write the movie just as Tolkien did not write the adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Scriptwriters adapted both works for the big screen, which means there will be differences.

So will the movie be a hateful diatribe? I don’t know. The books are another matter. Note this summary from a 2001 story in Crisis Magazine:

That is because Lyra is, as Mrs. Coulter learns from a witch she has tortured to death, Mother Eve reincarnate, destined to bring about a redemption from original sin.

Pullman’s treatment of the Catholic Church in his fantasy-Oxford world is at times imaginative (he names one of the popes John Calvin the First). But it is also unflattering. Mary Malone, a physicist introduced late in The Subtle Knife, says, “I used to be a nun you see. I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn’t any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that’s all.” What is a seven-year-old to make of that?

Note also the blasphemous quotation at the beginning this article. For a lengthy consideration of Pullman’s writing, see this Touchstone article by Leonie Caldecott, in which she calls Pullman “anti-Inkling.” She sums up the books (not the movie) this way:

Pullman may be a spellbinding magician painting an awe-inspiring scenario of hugely ambitious scope, but I suspect that in His Dark Materials he is trying to remodel the universe to his own taste. It is a kind of Luciferian enterprise to try to do in his story what Sauron tries to do in The Lord of the Rings. Or indeed to believe one can co-opt this power for good, as those whom the Ring has tempted, like Boromir, or even Frodo at the end of his quest, try to do.

The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks (JXIIH)

I agreed to review The Dark River, second in the Fourth Realm trilogy, in part because I had not read the first book. I thought I could give a unique perspective. Most reviewers would have read the first book, wouldn’t they? After I agreed, I thought I may have made a mistake. I read somewhere that the plot was so complex a reader should start with book one, and if I had picked up The Two Towers without any knowledge of the rest of The Lord of the Rings story, I’d be lost at the start. But I didn’t have any trouble following the story. There are many times the narrative recalls past events, all of which could be part of book one, but I don’t know and not knowing didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the story here.

The story begins exploring the black hats’ attempts to eliminate the white hats. The black hats in this story are The Brethren, a high-tech, international organization that wants to virtually imprison all free people through data networks, security checks, and surveillance cameras. They believe that once everyone in the world agrees to being watched or recorded for security reasons then everyone will become fairly controllable. The Brethren believe people are fundamentally products of their environment, so if the environment can be completely controlled, then everyone in it can be controlled. This belief earned the black hats the label Tabula by the white hats, who are Travelers and Harlequins. Continue reading The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks (JXIIH)

I Am Legend Coming Next Month

Will Smith is in another sci-fi novel adaptation, this time I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, which has been adapted twice before. Apparently, a four writer team undertook this adaptation. Either that or two writers adapted a previous two-writer adaptation. Matheson has many stories in the public mind, in part because he worked on The Twilight Zone, in part because authors like Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz have praised his work highly. Another adaptation from him, one of a script seen on The Twilight Zone, is coming in the movie The Box. Still another in The Incredible Shrinking Man.

From what I understand of the story, I Am Legend can’t be called a vampire tale, though there are vampires in it. It’s better described as a post-apocalypse story, focusing on a man as a representative of all mankind. Speaking of the Matheson’s book, Dan Schneider says it focuses “on human loneliness. . . Its insights into what it is to be human go far beyond genre.” (Spoiler warning on that link.) It could be a good movie. Probably is a good book.

Piccadilly Jim Doesn’t Burn It Up, As It Were

calon lan (Bonnie) of Dwell in Possibility reviews P.G. Wodehouse’s Piccadilly Jim–not the best. She loves Wodehouse, but this one just doesn’t burn it up, if you see what I mean. The problem? “There’s just too much going on. I couldn’t keep track of the characters, and frankly didn’t find them interesting enough to keep track of.”

Warning on following the link: music automatically plays (but at least the controls are easily found at the top of the page).

Rowling: Dumbledore is Gay, Books Are Christian Inspired

J.K. Rowling has been talking about her books lately, and in New York someone asked a question about Professor Dumbledore’s, the headmaster of Rowling’s Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, love life. The author answered hesitantly, “I always saw Dumbledore as gay.

According to at least one report, the audience loudly applauded that revelation, to which Rowling responded she would have revealed it earlier had she known it would be well received.

Of course, this doesn’t sit well with me, but I guess we’ll have to live with it. Rowling appears to be in her right mind and not slipping into loony post-story “revelations,” ala George Lucas. When I first heard of this news, I doubted it. Even if she did say Dumbledore is gay and it isn’t an inference drawn from an unclear statement, I thought we may have to wait to hear what other statements she makes about her wildly popular series. If next year we hear her tell readers the hero of her stories is actually Hagrid, then we’ll know she’s flaky. But this appears to be genuine backstory, never before guessed or hinted at in the books. In a few decades if these books are still popular, many readers will probably doubt Rowling ever said this.

In related news, Rowling said the books have Christian inspirations. The Telegraph reports:

At one point Harry visits his parents’ graves and finds two biblical passages inscribed on their tombstones.

“They are very British books, so on a very practical note, Harry was going to find biblical quotations on tombstones,” [Rowling] said.

“But I think those two particular quotations he finds on the tombstones …they sum up, they almost epitomise, the whole series.”

She confessed that she does have doubts about Christianity and the afterlife, but she has not given up on her faith. To the reader who responds to this by asking how she could be Christian and have a major character, admirable in many ways, be a homosexual, I recommend practicing a bit of Christian tolerance. Did the Lord say, “Ye will know my disciples by their stance of current issues?” No, he said his disciples would love each other, even when we disagree.

Cornish’s Foundling

A while back I meant to link to a review Mr. Holtsberry did on his jolly good blog, which could only be improved by short, coffee-related posts, IMESHO. Since I’ve been making good on my thoughts lately (note the radio interview Dr. Bertrand landed after I thought about suggesting it. (I didn’t know he was a doctor. Did you know he had a doctorate?)) Anyway, I saw this review of Foundling, by D. M. Cornish, and having seen the book before, I have faith it’s a good one.

Kevin says the book is both Dickensesque and Tolkienesque. “The Dickens reference obviously comes from the orphan plot line and the semi-Victorian feel. But also from the strong characters,” he writes. “The Tolkienesque aspect comes from the complexity and detailed nature of Cornish’s creation. The world of the Half-Continent has a depth and level of detail that is rare in YA fantasy.” Very interesting, though the hardback has a scary cover. The website is Monster Blood Tattoo, which has a short excerpt from the book.