Thursday, May 16, 2013
Three siblings awake in another world after the plane they are on crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. Before long, they are separated on their journey through the fantastical world. Wondrous sights and terrifying enemies await them, and as they slowly come to realize the truth about the nature of good and evil, their part in the war that is tearing the world apart is revealed to them.
One of the most memorable scenes involved a giant spider whose enormous web was a harp that played mystical music, and such memorable scenes occurred again and again throughout the story. A unique fantasy world is witnessed from its youth, through epic fantastical wars that cover the world for millennia, and all the way to its rebirth.
By the end of this book, I had been so amazed by what was described within its pages that I have to agree with my friend’s assessment that this novel is a masterpiece. An imperfect one, yes, with a slow start and some theological murkiness, but the many moments of brilliance make it well worth reading for any fan of fantasy.
While the protagonists in this novel are young, this novel is probably best for older teens and adults. The dark lord figure’s violence causes a lot of people to die and a lot of blood to flow, though it is always described in a way similar to that in Revelation in the Bible, rather than being gratuitous. Sexual sin is addressed tactfully. Some euphemisms are used, but there is no swearing.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Is there such a thing as Christian horror? Can Christians write horror stories, or is horror always a bad thing? In this series, I am exploring those questions.
When I was in my mid-teens, I became severely chronically ill, and the shallow faith that I had got by on as a preacher’s son crumbled. Feeling abandoned by God, with no hope, it seemed as if my life was a horror story. I was living in a nightmare.
So I began reading a lot of horror stories. I didn’t notice the subtle shift towards horror stories at the time. It wasn’t intentional. But looking back, I can see how horror connected with me. It reflected the horror in my own life.
This was mostly not a good thing. As I noted in the previous article in this series, much horror says that the world is a dark and twisted, and gives no hope. This disturbing proclamation brings a tainted thrill to those who have hope in their lives.
To me, since I was living in a horror story, the thrill I got was different. Horror wasn’t something that could scare me and then allow me to go back to my happy life. It was something that comforted me by saying that yes, I was right about how dark the world was.
It was a grim and ultimately false knowledge, but it seemed to give me a foundation to stand on, since I thought I no longer had God to look to. Horror showed many people being consumed by darkness, just as I felt I was being consumed. But sometimes they managed to overcome it, and I had a tiny, frail hope that perhaps I might overcome it, too.
Many Christians see horror stories as having no purpose other than to scare, but my extensive experience with the good and bad sides of horror has shown me otherwise. Horror, when used correctly, has an important and beneficial purpose.
I’m not the only person in the world with much darkness in my life. I’m not the only person struggling not to give in to that darkness. Horror fiction reflects this darkness, and that is where it derives part of its power.
If an author abuses this power purely to give twisted thrills, then he will be held accountable to God for such a perversion. If, however, an author uses the darkness to point to the light, then the power of horror is valuable.
For everyone who has a lot of darkness in their life and struggles not to give in to that darkness, horror reaches out to them, agreeing that there is a lot of darkness in the world. But horror must not stop there. It must assure them that they don’t have to live helplessly in a nightmare any longer.
They can wake up from the nightmare, with God’s help. They can overcome the monsters, with God’s help. They can escape from the things that haunt them, with God’s help. They can be free from the curse of sin, with God’s help.
Few genres can present that message in such a vivid way as horror. The Bible is filled with horror stories that present hope: A valley full of skeletons that will be raised to life. Three days learning to trust God in the belly of a beast. A man who is released from the grasp of a legion of demons. I’ll probably explore Bible stories such as those later in this series.
For now, think of the darkest times in your life. What comforted you the most? Likely, sometimes it was bright and happy things. But other times, I suspect it was people telling you about dark times in their lives that they had overcome, or reading Psalms about the dark times David and other psalmists overcame.
That is what horror should do: Tell about people in dark times, and how God helped them overcome. Just as they overcame, so can you. God’s light is greater than darkness, and He can save you from any nightmare you are living in, no matter what it is. Do you agree?
If you haven't read the previous article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series, you can do so here: Dark and Twisted
Thursday, May 2, 2013
After a bit of a shaky start, the story got into its stride and took off, making me hope that it would be a solid thriller. However, as the plot raced along, the story took an unexpected turn, and never felt quite as solid after that. In the end, it was a decent thriller with an adequately presented message, but probably not worth seeking out unless you’re a hardcore thriller or Dekker fan. I noticed more typos than I expected in a professional novel.
There is one swear word and two ambiguously used words that could be taken as swearing. Such language was so random that it felt awkward, and would have been better left out. There are a few non-explicit sexual references that, while not inappropriate, might go behind what most people would expect in Christian fiction. Violence is pervasive but rarely graphic. The dark tone and supernatural occurrences might disturb some readers.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Imagine a happy and peaceful small town. Life goes on like it has for many years. A family lives securely and helps their community. Then, one day, a dark presence creeps into their town. People begin vanishing during the night. Everyone is wondering if they will be next. But a few people get together to battle the darkness...
That sounds like the basic plot of many horror novels, doesn’t it? However, I wasn’t describing a horror novel. I was describing The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a classic Christian autobiography.
The Hiding Place tells the story of a remarkable woman and her family who lived in Holland and saw the Nazis take over their country, with that dark influence steadily growing over various aspects of their daily lives. Instead of going along with the Nazis, the Ten Boom family and others fought back by helping and hiding Jews. Their true story, with its steadily mounting tension and horror, is scarier than most horror novels.
Unlike many horror novels, The Hiding Place had a point: It showed God’s power and love in the midst of frightening circumstances. And that is the most important thing that Christian horror should do: Show God’s power and love in the midst of frightening circumstances.
How Christian horror should look, and how most horror looks, are quite different. A lot of horror says, “The world is a dark and twisted place. The End.” The focus is on scaring the reader and giving them a thrill. Christian horror should say, “The world can be a dark and twisted place, but God’s light will overcome the darkness and make things right.” The focus is then on giving the reader hope.
Since the world truly is a dark and twisted place, stories with dark and twisted aspects are needed, as long as they point to the light and don’t let shadows obscure the message. Do you agree?
Friday, April 19, 2013
The setting of this film reminded me a bit of Titan A.E. (which I also reviewed) in some ways, but in general the sci-fi elements are unique enough. The animation was solid. The villainous Long John Silver and his pet Morph are fairly well-done, as are his monstrous crew, and give the story more depth than it otherwise would have had.
If you watch this film hoping to see a good sci-fi adaption of Treasure Island, you will be disappointed by how many changes were made, as might be expected, during its conversion to sci-fi. If, however, you can separate it from the classic novel that inspired it, and just watch it as a light-hearted sci-fi film with some steampunk elements, it is decent entertainment.
Aside from mild violence and some gross-out humor, there’s no content of concern. Some people may be bothered by a “good-hearted” criminal being allowed to get off free with the help of a good character, since there is no clear indication that the criminal has learned better and won’t commit more crimes.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
With that line, a unique book about eccentric preachers begins. As an influential pastor in 19th century England, Spurgeon was sometimes seen as eccentric, which coming from many was neither a compliment nor a neutral observation. As he notes:
When God raises up a man of original mind who strikes out a course for himself and follows it with success, it is usual to charge him with being eccentric. If his honesty may not be suspected, nor his zeal questioned, nor his power denied, sneer at him and call him eccentric, and it may be the arrow will wound.
Spurgeon is quite clear how such attacks should be responded to:
Fear no man's frown, and court no man's smile, but say the right thing and the true, and say it as best you can, and ask God's help that you may say it so that you may make men feel it, even though you sting them into anger, for blessed shall that man be who has discharged his conscience before the living God.
He also warns against the wrong kind of eccentricity:
Find us a preacher who obtains notoriety for himself by descending to buffoonery, and who goes out of his way to say smart things, and make jokes on sacred subjects, and we decline to be his advocate.
After exploring various aspects of eccentricity, Spurgeon gives an overview of eleven eccentric preachers, some of whom were greatly slandered, but all of whom were righteous men of God. He shares many amusing stories along the way, at least one of which was from his own life. It’s an enjoyable read, and safe for all ages, so I recommend it to anyone who is interested. Its message is much needed in our day.
This book can be read for free online: Eccentric Preachers
Thursday, April 4, 2013
After a mouse toymaker is kidnaped by a peg-legged bat, his daughter seeks out the most legendary mouse detective to help her find him. Along the way she is joined by a mouse doctor who has just returned to London from military service. As the three mice begin their investigation, they go up against the mouse detective’s greatest enemy, a rat criminal who claims to be a mouse. Soon they find themselves not only trying to save the toymaker, but also the queen of mice from the rat’s evil schemes.
Violence is mild, but pervasive, including a villainous rat who feeds one of his minions to a cat. The sometimes horror-ish tone might scare small children. A scene involving a mouse bar dancer who removes her dress and dances about in the more revealing attire underneath, to the lustful delight of sailors and the less lascivious enchantment of a protagonist, was cartoonish but still problematic due to its implications, and surprising in a G-rated Disney film.