This was, by far, the most frustrating novel I’ve read. It comes out tomorrow, for those interested.
Don’t get me wrong, Dekker put effort into Forbidden. He’d have to with his “New York Times Bestselling Author” blurb on every book. The book had moments of rapture, these moments where I believed these characters existed out there. Chapters clipped along, tiny hybrids of Brown and Grisham, pulling me in. Overall, it’s probably worth your time if you’re a Dekker fan. It’s my first Dekker. There are better ways to spend the hours I devote to reading.
Forbidden erects a post-apocalyptic world plagued by an emotion-killing virus. It’s similar to zombie books, but feels different. For one, there are no zombies – not technically. Yes, the people walk around dead to the world, but it’s because this virus (called “Legion”) stripped everyone of emotion. No one feels anything except for fear and its derivatives like anxiety. Cool set-up, right? King could work wonders in that world.
Our protag, Rom, finds himself assaulted by a raving madman. The lunatic’s out of Order, yelling about some ancient Order of Keepers, and being chased by trusty officers of the law. Violence is prohibited. Knives are no-nos. Guns… do they even exist? I don’t remember any guns…
So when this Keeper gives Rom a small wooden box (the thing he’s been “keeping” all this time) and tells him his father didn’t die in an accident, but was murdered – Rom’s ready to turn the guy into to the “wellness center.” I imagine the wellness center’s something like Soylent Green, but without the eco-friendly reduce, reuse, recycle bit. Too morbid, Lance. Too morbid.
About that time, the trusty officers of the law murder the Keeper right before Rom’s eyes. Witnessing murder and having spoken a promise to the Keeper, Rom goes on a noirish-quest to return the emotions to the world.
Okay, synopsis over. Cool concept, like I said. I think it’s a brilliant idea with wonderful moments. I found myself disgusted at the antagonist Saric and rooting for Rom. I felt sorry for Saric’s past and hated Rom’s propensity for violence. Dekker is a man who understands both the sexual and the rage impulses. Moments of conflict were so… raw that I felt myself yanked into the story, critiquing establishment along with Dekker:
On each of the city’s seven hills, the spires and turrets of centuries old buildings stabbed at the heavens like so many lances piercing a boil.
No, it’s not just because my name’s in that sentence. I like what he’s saying without saying it. That’s good showing. At another point, two characters who know something of emotions outside of fear start talking about what emotion – what life – might be like. The older reveals absurdity in his talk with the younger:
“Here we are, two corpses, talking.”
That’s not prose, that’s poetry. That line, in and of itself, made up for the frustrations in the read. I half-expected to find this hidden in some MeWithoutYou lyrics or inside an Elliot poem. It summed up the novel, and I think let Ted say something to the reader. I loved this moment, and will mull this line over and over until it’s burned into my hippocampus.
“Here are the eyes that have captivated the world.”
Which, in context, works well. This style of talking echos a future-dialect in the world he created. The downside is this play with language left me longing for more idioms that the book lacked elsewhere, especially concerning modern, emotional phrases. I expected an emotional tone similar to 1984 with Forbidden, but got The Notebook and A Game of Thrones instead. Less emotion at the start of the book might have sold me on the world itself. It set me up and let me down. Let me reiterate, though, that these were great moments and I’m happy in their memory.
But a book is more than a compilation of good moments strung into a plot. The plot was good. The set-up was good. Even the pay-off was decent.
The inconsistency, however, wounded me.
A dozen or so times during Forbidden I found myself ready to set it down. It’s not that I was bored. I felt preached at. The place names seemed ripped out of the New Testament rather than born out of the author’s mind. Some of the quotes, supposedly in a post-apocalyptic Europe some five hundred years from now, came straight from Scripture. Examples?
We see now through a cloudy mirror. …power beyond any earthly throne peace reigns on earth (and I said aloud good will to men) I am the artist and you are my perfect clay
Add these to the renaming of Rome into Byzantium, the monotheistic world where everyone believes in God and refers to him as “Maker,” and the unanimous naming of the afterlife as “Hades” – a first-century Greco-Roman concept foreign even to me, a twenty-first century American, let alone imaginary thirty-first century characters – and you’ll see why I felt preached at. I wondered if Forbidden was a scheme for quoting scripture at me. If that’s what he’s doing, that’s not creative writing. That’s stilted theological prose that happens to classify as “fiction.” I’d say the same to someone who studied Nietzsche or Wittegenstein and quoted him verbatim. We’re not in the business of footnotes, people.
What’s worse is when a character curses with “dung hills” in the mist of a rage, only to use the word “damn” two paragraphs later. I don’t care what an author does with their characters but be consistent. Either replace the first with “shit” or the second with “dang,” but as is I don’t accept it. As is, I get distracted with inconsistency and find myself critiquing the author instead of the culture he’s critiquing, wondering if he’s so committed to his audience that he would compromise the integrity of a character. Triphon, as a character, moved all over the place. Nail him down for me so I can enjoy him.
In the end, most of this isn’t directed at Dekker, but the crowd of people behind him. I did enjoy the beginning and end of the book. It’s the middle that made me mad. To the people that aspire to write like him, I’d say this:
You wanna follow Jesus? Great! You wanna write books? Cool. Don’t write Christian books.
What I mean is, Christians claim to follow Jesus. If Jesus wrote a novel, he wouldn’t market it to religious people. You wouldn’t find his book in Pharisee bookstores. You’d find it on the desk of the tax collector, by the register at a brothel and in the hands of bartenders. I’m not saying Jesus would write smut or donate money to modern sex slavery. I’m saying he wouldn’t slap the adjective Christian onto his fiction and market it to religious people. I went into Forbidden expecting a novel and felt scammed into a religious… product? Yeah, product. Like the enterprise and religious system itself was more important than the story. That’s not a novel.
That’s a bumper sticker.
Maybe I’ve overstated. I enjoyed moments, but found the book packaged all wrong, forcing me into a love-hate. I’ll give Dekker another chance. Seems like a cool enough guy. Check out Forbidden, if you want, but be warned. It gets preachy.
Words I learned from Ted Dekker:
hippocampus – the elongated ridges on the floor of each lateral ventricle of the brain, thought to be the center of emotion, memory, and the autonomic nervous system. lathe – a machine for shaping wood, metal, or other material by means of a rotating drive that turns the piece being worked on against changeable cutting tools. affecting – have an effect on; make a difference to (always get this mixed up with effect) sconce – candle holder, or a holder of another light source, that is attached to a wall with an ornamental bracket. prelates – a bishop or ecclesiastical dignitary galvanizing – shock or excite (someone), typically into taking action (the first time he used this, it was novel. The second time, cliché based on his own usage.) virulent – of a disease or poison – extremely severe or harmful in its effects lithe – thin, supple, graceful thrall – the state of being in someone’s power or having great power over someone brusquely – abrupt or offhand in manner rankled – continue to be painful; fester vitriolic – sulfuric acid(less)
As a kid, I ingested Houdini biographies like most kids ingest chocolate. As a kid, Houdini snatched up Robert Houdin biographies like most kids snatched up wallets. I found myself taunting my brother to handcuff, shackle and hog tie me to my own bedposts and lock the door just so I could escape through the bedroom window and go wash dishes until he found me again. Houdini contorted himself as often as the manager at The Welsh Circus allowed him to. I practiced card magic, he practiced card magic. In my youthful ignorance, I delved into spiritualism & communicating with the dead. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like… well… you get the picture.
“But Lance, you’re not Houdini! Get over yourself.”
No crap, Sherlock. (You might that joke in a moment). I recount my childhood superhero to show the deep, intimate connection I have with the whole of Eric Weiss’s life, from Hungarian Eric to Harry Houdini. Every bit of this book taught me about myself while it taught me about him. Beyond the straightjackets, metamorphoses and lock picks sits a melancholy choleric pensive who struggled between arrogance and honest ambition, service and secret service all his life. That’s me in a cracked nutshell.
Kalush and Sloman chisel away chunks of historical farces to hew a statue of Houdini both mysterious and masterful – one enlisted as a secret service agent and assassinated by spiritualists. They show Houdini making friends with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and then unfriending him just as fast. They show his consistent connections with the military, the secret service and the birth of aviation – Harry was, after all, the first to fly in Australia. They argue all of this in hypothetical non-stance that, rather than seeming passive, strengthens their argument. They leave the reader to decide the truth as well as to double check their COPIOUS footnotes for themselves. No wonder there’s a Secret Life of Houdini planned for the silver screen.
I think this marks the first book review on here I didn’t crack the book to write. It just came out. Yes the book’s big – as in 568 single-spaced biography pages big. Yes, sections dragged for me. Didn’t even care. Loved every second of it – even the handful of boring parts.
I’ll be brief: since The Name of the Wind a year and a half ago, I’ve searched for a book that I could recommend to all of you without hesitation. Rea...moreI’ll be brief: since The Name of the Wind a year and a half ago, I’ve searched for a book that I could recommend to all of you without hesitation. Ready Player One is that book. Every nerd, geek, dork, techie, trekkie and weirdo on here will love Cline’s world. Everyone else will enjoy a potboiler read that might explain some of your weirder classmates in high school. That’s the short version.
The long version goes a-thusly:
Ready Player One takes place in a dystopian world where most social interaction happens in an alternate reality video game called OASIS. The billionaire genius who invented the game dies and leaves his multi-billion dollar fortune and a controlling interest in the company to the OASIS user who finds an easter egg hidden deep inside this game.
In the resulting pages, Cline invites us to log into the MMO of MMOs, the multiverse of multiverses–a world that includes every pop culture reference from David Bowie to Dark Crystal to Daishos to D&D. The Star Trek, Star Wars, Matrix, Warcraft, Elder Scrolls, and Marvel universes, the Whedonverse, Multiverse and others all have replicas inside OASIS. Inside this world, we follow Wade Owen Watts (W.O.W.) in a grail quest for fans of the Atari game “Adventure.” Wade’s character, through choices and opinions, crafts a manifesto for future though on internetology and the Edenic purpose of decentralized, interconnected computer servers while simultaneously crafting a collective grammar of chat rooms, forums, blogs and avatars, doing for internet jargon what Dante did for vulgar Italian. Cline uses this grammar to build a bridge between IG and IRL, between IC and OOC, laying a yellow brick road to reality through alternate reality. This grammar includes a neo-tryptic for a modern world of attention-deficit minds, curious souls and changeable skins and so clears a place for COLLECTIVE NERDOM to meet, set aside border wars and unite against one common foe.
“Oh come on Lance, there had to be something you didn’t like.”
John Milton in VOLUME FOUR of the Harvard classics feels like semi-automatic catharsis. One of his poems, an early composition on the passion of Christ Milton quit halfway, hid this gem:
Befriend me, Night, best Patroness of grief! Over the pole thy thickest mantle throw, And work my flattered fancy to belief That Heaven and Earth are coloured with my woe; My sorrows are too dark for day to know: The leaves should all be black whereon I write, And letters, where my tears have washed, a wannish white.
I honestly considered giving this one a gentleman’s three-out-of-five so as not to make enemies, but I figure anyone who reads this post is my friend,...moreI honestly considered giving this one a gentleman’s three-out-of-five so as not to make enemies, but I figure anyone who reads this post is my friend, and as a friend, will bear through our differences in light of our many common interests.
I did not like this book.
I know people who did. It’s certainly worth grabbing to keep up on where the series is headed, but it was painful for me. I loved the start, the set-up of a holder getting a dragon, even Jaxom was enjoyable (though I enjoyed his white dragon Ruth even more). McCaffrey dealt with her sex-scenes tactfully and with grace (but I wouldn’t recommend it for your twelve-year-old). Even Robinton was in rare form, making me laugh often. However, I felt like the main objective of this book’s set up climaxed two hundred pages in, and I still had four hundred more. I finished this book out of spite for my habit of never finishing, but not out of pleasure. I skipped whole paragraphs.
It seemed there was no real objective, conflict, or escalation in the last half of the book; it just gradually dragged on developing characters, making me fade from loving to liking to tolerating to enduring to loathing. Sure, some of the technological discoveries were interesting, but I’m not picking up a book for a timeline of events in a world’s history. I’m picking up a book for a story. I didn’t give a rip about the last half, maybe the series will get better over time, but this book gets two out of five stars, and I’m taking a break from the series.
predilection - a preference, special liking for something; a bias surmised - supposing something to be true w/out evidence facetious - treating serious issues with deliberately inappropriate humor ( that joke was facetious for being too soon ) obsequious - obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree quixotic - exceedingly idealistic; unrealistic; impractical chary - cautious; wary adroit - clever, skillful in the hands or mind sinecure - a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit recalcitrant - having an obstinately uncooperative attitude toward authority or discipline (less)
Surprised by Joy continually… well… surprised me. Part autobiography, part school-boy memoir, part philosophical musing on the shaping of Lewis’ early life moves from his intimate experience with Norse mythology through his aggressive atheism until we reach his decision to turn his life over to Jesus. S.B.J. (not to be confused with S.O.J., you Diablo 2 players) anchors Lewis’ experience inthe British school system and a compost pile of great literature. When I’m learning new names of dead authors, my heart races. This book was loaded with them and with humor and with a brutal honesty that Evangelicals neglect today. Whatever this book is, I don’t know that I would call it “Christian” literature. Here’re some quotes:
Christians are wrong, but the rest are all bores.
I have seen Oldie make that child bend down at one end of the schoolroom and then take a run of the room’s length at each stroke.
The Syrian captain was forgiven for bowing in the house of Rimmon. I am one of many who have bowed in the house of the real God when I believed Him to be no more than Rimmon.
Life is as habit-forming as cocaine.
To explain what happened in me as I read this book is to define the phenomenon of a muse in a hot bubble bath with candles and paper. I can’t.(less)
If you're going to build up "a Marvel event" and sell it as a "Civil War..." If you're going to let it extend across every single mainstream comic seri...moreIf you're going to build up "a Marvel event" and sell it as a "Civil War..." If you're going to let it extend across every single mainstream comic series you run... If you're going to let every other long-standing Marvel Hero play a part on one side or the other...
WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU MAKE THE X-MEN NEUTRAL?! They obviously have a STRONG opinion about mutant registration and have for a VERY long time. I don't care if they've got the most to lose as a people being consistently monitored--the greatest revolutions are started by those who are most oppressed.
Was the art pretty? Oh sure, and I'm sure these guys are only working with what upper management gives them--guys like David Hine might not be able to get a say in about whether the X-Men get into the fight.
Someone will say, "If you add the whole X-Men team, when do you stop? Who do you exclude?"
Plenty of former X-men had integral roles in the story. If you want to do something epic, include the original team.(less)
Don’t hate me, hyper-fans. At least not before reading all of this…
No, I didn’t hate the book. I was surprised by the book. Through my oh-so-limited experience with the video game (shout out to super-gamer David Angeloni), and from hearsay interaction with the miniseries, I had one word attached to Dune:
LAME. By “lame” I meant “laughable low-budget dime-novel scifi story.” I was mistaken like an interim teacher mistakes a long-haired junior high boy for a girl. On the back of my copy, the Louisville Times said,
Herbert’s creation of this universe, with its intricate development and analysis of ecology, religion, politics and philosophy, remains one of the supreme and seminal achievements in science fiction.
And Arthur C. Clarke compared it to LOTR. Back up the bus Betty! The LOTR comparison’s fair for Rothfuss and Martin, but Dune? What does Dune have to offer?
As it turns out, it’s less because of the epic-telling, more because of Herbert’s conversation with the subjects Louisville Times mentioned. By creating a sand-planet, Herbert talks even today on subjects like Middle Eastern oil (the “spice”), blood diamonds, Afghanistan, imperialism and even the Occupy Movement.
Even cooler is how he frames up prophecies through mathematical probability and historical gerrymandering. Basically, if you put the right axioms in the hands of the right people and keep track of DNA trajectory, you can engineer a prophecy to time out just right. Perhaps this speaks to Edersheim’s explanation of the aligning of the planets at Jesus’ birth?
Best of all, I related to Paul – the main character. Despite the crazy names of secondary and tertiary characters, Paul came through as relatable. Anna Greer mentioned how danger elevates tension in a scene. The threats on Paul’s life kept me engaged in ways other conflict did not.
Last night Kiddo and I watched Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock. There’s a moment that illustrates this well…
Near the end, there’s this scene where the protagonist uses the only thing at his disposal (a flash bulb lens) to fight off the antagonist (a murderer). The danger is very real, but the flash lens is all the crippled protagonist needs. Hitchcock puts our hero into a terrible situation and lets him fight his own way out.
This is a dry, but insightful explanation of what I’m getting at:
The same happens for Paul in Dune and it’s delightful. Herbert puts him into danger, Paul fights his way out with what he has.x I’m learning all sorts of things about story building simply by reading this one. Check it out.
Dream country had me better. I felt like the whole Satan leaving thing was a deus ex machina inserted to make a point rather than to tell a story (dae...moreDream country had me better. I felt like the whole Satan leaving thing was a deus ex machina inserted to make a point rather than to tell a story (daemon ex machina? diablo ex machina?)
But I'll still give it four stars because... well... Gaiman.(less)