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4.13  ·  Rating Details ·  1,881 Ratings  ·  230 Reviews
Callie Hayes is living a life of fear and disillusionment when she volunteers for a psychology experiment that promises to turn her life around. As her orientation proceeds, Callie becomes frightened by the secrecy and evasion she encounters. When she demands to be released from the program, she is suddenly dropped into a terrifying alien world and into a perilous battle b ...more
Paperback, 393 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Bethany House Publishers
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J.K. Riki I understand your predicament. I, too, had similar feelings at certain points in this book. Still, it was an interesting enough story to get me to…moreI understand your predicament. I, too, had similar feelings at certain points in this book. Still, it was an interesting enough story to get me to finish it, and now that it's over I'm glad I read it. I learned a lot analyzing the writing and story choices as I went, and it was entertaining enough overall to warrant the read-through.

Will you be glad you stuck with it if you go back to it? I can't say you would for sure, but if I had posted this question after 100 pages and someone said to me "Just go finish it and enjoy" I would be glad they told me to see it through. Hope that helps some!(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 31, 2008 Charis rated it really liked it
To the person who recommended this book to me, first of all, I would like to say, "Mother, that was one weird bus stop!"

What do you get when you combine a western novel with a sci-fi and a romance and Pilgrim's Progress? You get a cowboy shooting blue laser light at demons to save his true love. That's what. And then you stay up late into the night trying to find out what happens, and you come away with the same sort of impression you have after eating sushi or kimchee for the first time--weird
Dina Sleiman
Aug 29, 2009 Dina Sleiman rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Dina by: Christi Sleiman
Shelves: favorites
I wish I could give this book a sixth star. Take a dash of Pilgrim’s Progress, toss in a good helping of The Matrix, and you get Arena by Karen Hancock. Talk about a book I couldn’t put down. My teenaged daughter highly recommended Arena to me, and it turned out to be one of the most fascinating and unique novels I have ever read. Sci-fi fans will go especially crazy for this book, but everyone will appreciate the finely crafted allegory of the Christian experience.

Callie Hayes thinks she is si
Jul 29, 2012 Celeste rated it it was amazing
This has to be my favorite book of all time. I have read this book several years ago and it has withstood the test of time. Brilliantly wriiten. I loved the concept of this story. Makes christian fiction fun and interesting like never before.
Jun 20, 2011 Lora rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of my favorite books, re-read it again, have already read it a couple of times. It is a very different kind of book, blending sci-fi and Christian allegory, but it also is a great adventure and quite a ride, one of those books you can't put down. A bit on the edgy side, so not for everyone, but very clear allegory. On the back of the book it is described as a modern blending of elements of the Matrix and Pilgrim's Progress, and I would add: and more! If you want something different, check it ...more
Chris G
Dec 26, 2012 Chris G rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book. I didn't know what to expect when I picked this one up, but two days later I still couldn't put it down for more than a few minutes. I read it years ago and I still reread it. It's got great plot, characters, pacing, and is a fabulous allegory of the Christian walk from before salvation til God takes u home. I can't say enough good things about it. It's a must read.
E. Melure
Jun 01, 2014 E. Melure rated it it was amazing
I typically have a hard time with Christian Fiction, because, to agree with a few of the reviews, that genre tends to be too "in-your-face" or too "Christian-cliché." I happen to be someone who knows God to be much more than cute quotes and easy street, so I get slightly repulsed by those types of books because they do not accurately portray the difficulty of life -- with and without God.

While granting my limited knowledge of this category, I found Arena to be an incredible example of the walk o
Feb 04, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing
Callie Hayes grudgingly agrees to participate in a psychology study as moral support for a friend. However, frightened by the examiners' secrecy and evasiveness (one vanishes before her eyes), she tries to escape but finds herself cast into the Arena, a testing ground for participants of the study. Armed with only a guidebook and minimal supplies, she is soon forced to trust the enigmatic Pierce, a man who claims to have spent the past five years in the Arena. As Callie journeys toward the Gate, ...more
Heather G Gentle
Oct 14, 2008 Heather G Gentle rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved the first 3/4 of this book. Great adventure, mysterious and interesting characters and a good visual of the alien world. The only thing I would have liked is for the ending to have a little more to it....although I did like the very end where they meet up again years later...not the most original..but still cute and hopeful.
I had no idea this was "Christian fiction" until afterward- there was no "religion pushing" in this book-- just a lot of "faith" basis which was done in a
May 27, 2013 Kibbenza rated it liked it
I'm kind of torn with this book. On the one hand, I did kind of enjoy it. The writing wasn't anything spectacular, and the story was kind of strange, but it was interesting in a way that kept me reading (although more slowly than I would with a book that really captured me).

Callie, at first, is a bit of a boring character. She seemed pretty stuffy for someone that young. I can understand serious, or reserved, but she came across as way older than she was supposed to be. So, it was kind of hard t
Austin Hobbs
Arena by Karen Hancock
.1/5 Stars

I like to start my reviews with the best parts, themes, characters or whatever I think makes the book standout. This book has already been a heavy discussion piece in my "book club." However, not for the reasons a book should be. The only things about this book that I can muster in a positive aspect are the following: the message and the overall idea.

Unfortunately, the execution of the idea was atrocious. The writing was bland, repetitive and overall boring. There
Oct 21, 2009 Beth rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and didn't find that it was preachy in the Christian sense, despite the fact that is is listed as inspirational fiction. I can certainly see the parallels and allegory, but I do not believe that it would be a turn off to someone who was not a deeply religious person. I thought the message transcended Christianity as a moral tale of life, asserting ourselves and the choices we make. I enjoyed the little bit of an added happy ending as well. Sucker for the guy getting the girl.
Jan 15, 2013 Katelin rated it it was amazing
I love this book! I have read it several times, it never gets old.
Jan 08, 2008 Joeschmoe rated it it was ok
I'm not sure where to start. Though I enjoy this book from a purely sci-fi standpoint, its undertone is simply unbearable. Every time I manage to forget the fact that this book was written as a (rather shitty) allegory, something will come up that practically flaunts it. The best way to put it is your friend is telling a mildly amusing story. He means it to be humorous, but you find it interesting nonetheless. Yet every time you manage to forget how stupid the point of your friend's story is, he ...more
Feb 15, 2011 Bethany rated it really liked it
I didn't expect to enjoy this one, but I ended up really liking it. It was sometimes hard so see past the heavy-handed, rather corny fundamentalist Christian metaphors, though. Once I finished rolling my eyes, however, I was completely sucked into the wonderfully crafted, full, lush world that she created. Like every good book I have read, I was left wanting to stay in that world a little longer.
Bill Tillman
A very unique book, speculative in nature. When Meg and Callie sign up for an experiment at the Univ. of Arizona they have no idea where it will take them. They separately end up in a place called the "Arena", on another world and are confronted with life and death struggles in dealing with the environment.
Apr 05, 2015 Kailey rated it it was amazing
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK!! MY ABSOLUTE ALL TIME FAVOURITE BOOK!! I NEED SOMEONE TO RECOMMEND A BOOK TO ME THAT WOULD BE SIMILAR TO KARENS BOOKS!! I love the characters, the plot, the allegory and the cute little character romance!! :)
Jan 26, 2014 Thomas rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-with-group
I gave it a valiant effort - a solid 50% completion.

This pretty much sums it up...

Jan 02, 2015 Milana rated it it was amazing
Slow at the beginning, but very interesting at the end!
Sheri Swift
Sep 26, 2012 Sheri Swift rated it it was amazing
So unusual and different ;)
Mar 24, 2017 Anna rated it liked it
I might be leaning more towards 4 stars- I'm still reeling from the allegory and how closely it describes the views of Christianity. It was such an interesting way of telling the story and using symbols to help guide the characters. It really made me think and reflect on my life and my path. Pretty interesting...
Suzanne Leonhard
Jan 26, 2017 Suzanne Leonhard rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. I've read it three times.
Nov 14, 2016 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Slow start. Worth it. And now I'm crying.
Feb 13, 2017 Lizard2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2017
I was duped. It was religious.
DNF at 77%.

This is the first time I've dropped a reread of a book I used to love. In fact, this book used to have four, maybe five, stars from me. If I rated dropped books, I'd probably give this 2 now. It was a long time ago, but I loved it with all my heart. I reread it twice in that span, though a big warning was that I skipped most of it. When I "reread" it, I went to the meaty bits, to the romantic development. It took forgetting a remainder of the story and picking it up again for nostalgi
Mar 31, 2016 Martha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable allegory of the Christian walk including faith, temptation, surrender, sacrifice, loss or victory.

Callie is living day to day in a quiet life with a dull job, never pushing herself beyond her limited comfort zone. Her family has wealth and tried to get her to attend debutante balls and society parties, but none of that interested her. Callie’s enthusiastic friend, Meg, convinces her to participate in a psychology research experiment for some quick cash. They had no idea how
Mar 07, 2017 Rachel rated it it was ok
I give this 2 stars instead of one because it was a cautious re-entry into Christian fiction for me, and it was at least better than the bizarre amount of "Christian Prairie Love Story" that seem to be all over my bookstore.

That said, though the premise seemed interesting, this was a DNF for me at halfway. SO SLOW. Achingly slow.
Jul 02, 2016 Michael rated it it was amazing
One thing is for sure, Karen Hancock is an exceptional story teller. She told a brilliant story from start to finish, in only one book. That's a rarity nowadays.

The synopsis for this book reminded me a little bit of The Hunger Games. Thank goodness the similarities ended when I started reading. The difference? This book was written with a purpose, and had a lot of things I could take away from it. Better said, I felt like I learned something about myself and about the world by reading this book
Katie Joiner
Jul 09, 2012 Katie Joiner rated it liked it
Don't get me wrong, this book was good. But I had several issues with it.
Let's start with the positives.
Callie Hayes was an amazing protagonist. She was someone totally relatable; I rooted for her the whole way. Even when the plot got boring, the preaching too preach-y, and the situation irritating, I stuck with it because of Callie.
The descriptions? Stunning. I felt like I was standing in the Arena, seeing what Callie saw and the terrors she had to overcome. Her love and her hate were equall
Elaine D
Jan 08, 2013 Elaine D rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Arena begins with Callie Hayes, a broke post-college gal working a dead-end job seeking… something more. Desperate for money and enlightenment, she volunteers for a paid psychological research study. What she thinks is an obstacle course simulation lasting only a few hours, is actually a multi-dimensional & highly realistic other realm that she must escape unscathed. She soon finds out that her life problems are quite small and manageable compared to the horrors and dangers inside the Arena. ...more
Kelsie Beaudoin (The Bookworm)
To read more reviews visit:

Don't get me wrong, this book started off really good-- think Hunger Games meets aliens. But I had several issues with it that made me dislike the book in the end…

But first, let’s focus on what was good!:

Callie Hayes started off as an amazing protagonist. First off she realizes that something is wrong, and once she gets into the Arena we realize that she was right. She is ten feet deep in a big, stinking pile of ‘Oh SHIT’. Her refus
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“Did you know that when you save someone's life, it makes you their hero? Did you know that, even if that person is mad at your for saving their life, another person who may have been watching or who may have heard about it could be affected by what you did for that other person, and you could be a hero to them, too?” 0 likes
“There was no spoken testimony, no verbal deposition, no swearing upon holy books, for words alone could lie. Decision and action, repeated over time, did not.” 0 likes
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