Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Arena” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating


4.15 of 5 stars 4.15  ·  rating details  ·  1,345 ratings  ·  171 reviews
A Repackaged Award Winner From Karen Hancock
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 terrif...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Bethany House Publishers
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Arena, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Arena

The Orb of Truth by Brae WyckoffThe Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisThe Magician's Nephew by C.S. LewisThe Last Battle by C.S. Lewis
Best Christian Sci-Fi/Fantasy
60th out of 309 books — 406 voters
Candle in the Darkness by Lynn AustinThe Silent Governess by Julie KlassenA Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne GistA Proper Pursuit by Lynn AustinThe Girl in the Gatehouse by Julie Klassen
Christy Award Winners
33rd out of 118 books — 85 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,436)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
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.
Heather G Gentle
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...more
Dina Sleiman
Nov 25, 2013 Dina Sleiman rated it 5 of 5 stars
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...more
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
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
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.
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...more
Katie Joiner
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...more
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
I gave it a valiant effort - a solid 50% completion.

This pretty much sums it up...

E. Melure
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...more
This was definitely and unusual novel, at least for me. And I don't mean that in a negative way. In fact, I really enjoyed this novel. Arena was a fast paced, fantasy read that continued to keep me in suspense. I say it is unusual, because I am not really sure how to describe it to you, especially without giving too much away. However, I will try ...

Once our heroine lands in the Arena things get interesting and very confusing for her. Much like life for us. We have choices to make, people we pl...more
Sarah P
What a terrible excuse for a book.

Lost meets Hunger Games meets aliens (so far so good...) meets a terribly disguised "The Lord Jesus Christ is my personal savor, and if you don't believe, hell is in store" morality metaphor.

First of all, I should have guessed, after reading the effusive "Gratitude" section at the beginning. "[Thanks] to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom we live and move and for all things have been created" ... And "to all [those] God provided before He saw fit to gra...more
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.
Chris G
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.
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.
I love this book! I have read it several times, it never gets old.
Marije Van
There are some books you reread every once in a while because they're more than a good story, they tell you about the Great Story, or about the Great Myth as Tolkien and Lewis would say. They teach you and help you understand aspects in a different way. The Chronicles of Narnia are of course number one in this area, but this book, Arena, by Karen Hancock, comes very close. I've read the book for at least 3 times now and each time I learn again. Besides this the book is well-written and I really...more
Sheri L. Swift
So unusual and different ;)
When Callie allows her friend to convince her to participate in a psychological study to earn $50, she has no idea what she’s getting herself into. She shows up for the test, and her suspicions are aroused by all the high-tech machinery used to evaluate her before the test even begins. And what about those too-gorgeous men running the place? She tries to back out, but instead finds herself transported into another world – the Arena. The ‘test’ is to find the gate back home by following the instr...more
Elaine D
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
I really go back and forth between two and three stars.
It did keep me going but I felt the storyline was a bit repetitous. I did appreciate the book enough to want to see what else she was written which is why I finally decided on the three stars.

I love the idea of Christian themed science fiction and wish more people were writing in this strangely odd but perfect genre, originally started out by Perelandra by CS Lewis, if you ask me. The reviews in the book said this was Pilgrim's Progress mee...more
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...more
Harrowing adventure, mystery, and loads of fast-paced action – I could not put this book down! At least for the first half, I couldn’t.

The premise is that a young woman agrees to participate in a psychology experiment. She becomes alarmed during the screening and tries to back out, but is not allowed to. Instead she finds herself thrown into a matrix-like “arena” where she must find the exit back to the real world.

But the arena is huge, a world of its own, filled with predatory bio-forms, almos...more
Kyle Pratt
Jan 25, 2013 Kyle Pratt rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Christian science fiction fans
Karen Hancock is a new strong voice in a genre that is sadly lacking in quality writers. Arena, her debut novel, is a bold Christian science fiction adventure.

The protagonist, Callie Hayes, finds herself transported into the Arena, with only a manual (Bible), and a few other provisions. The arena, representing the world we live in, is a violent and evil place but the rape and brutal murder Callie witnesses is presented but not dwelled upon or described in gory detail. While in the Arena, she enc...more
It was a very strange book, very original, very creative and somewhat...well...eerie. I love the parallels drawn to the Bible, and the story itself was exciting. The writing style wasn't too bad either and the characters are pretty likable. Well except the people that seem to be good at first but then actually turn evil. But anyway, the two main characters are likable in my opinion. Although the whole thing about the alien king or whatever was kind of pathetic and embarrassing to me. I understan...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book started off pretty weak for me and finished off just ok. I would have stopped reading if I hadn't loved the authors guardian king series. The writing quality definitely improved throughout the book with some places here and there that were especially good or especially poor. The Christian allegory did not go over well with me like it did in her guardian king series. It did not fit in well to the story and was often overly blatant.. Actually, the whole reason for the arena was plain odd...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...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 81 82 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Firebird (Firebird, #1)
  • Oxygen (Oxygen, #1)
  • The Restorer
  • Return to Alastair (Tahn Dorn #2)
  • The Legend of the Firefish (Trophy Chase Trilogy)
  • Shadow in the Deep (Binding of the Blade #3)
  • The Search for Fierra (Empyrion, #1)
  • Giver of Roses (Guardians of Gadiel, #1)
  • Prophet (Books of the Infinite, #1)
  • The Watchers
  • Auralia's Colors (The Auralia Thread, #1)
  • Time Lottery
The Light of Eidon (Legends of the Guardian-King, #1) Shadow Over Kiriath (Legends of the Guardian-King, #3) The Shadow Within (Legends of the Guardian-King, #2) Return of the Guardian-King (Legends of the Guardian-King, #4) The Enclave

Share This Book