Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Triple Book Review: The Door Within Trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batson

After his family goes to live at his grandpa’s house, a young boy feels lonely due to leaving behind his best friend. When he comes across a strange scroll and gets drawn into a magnificent other world, he finds himself on an incredible adventure that will change him forever. Soon two other people from our world will join him in this magical land, and the three of them will face the evil warrior who wants to rule the other world.

The Door Within, the first book in the series, left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, the plotting is not the best, with characters who abruptly change their mind for no apparent reason, scenes that are overly rushed through, and a climax that wasn’t very exciting. On the other hand, the book has a fascinating premise, quite a few memorable scenes, and numerous brilliant fantasy ideas. While I was left disappointed with the book as a whole due its flaws, the potential of the author made me willing to give the second book in the series a chance.

The plotting turned out to be a bit better in The Rise of the Wyrm Lord, and I don’t recall ever noticing a serious issue like those in the first book. The story switches to a different main character, which was a bit jarring at first, but worked fine once I got used to it, though I would have liked more depth in the characters. As with the first book, there are a lot of brilliant fantasy ideas, and these, combined with the improved writing, were enough to convince me to finish reading the series.

Just as the plotting got better in the second book, it also got better in The Final Storm. The main character from the first book was brought back, along with the main character from the second book, and a new important character, though the way that the story frequently switched to the point of view of side characters sometimes slowed the story’s momentum.  If you like the first two books, you’re pretty much guaranteed to like the third book, which managed to gloss over most of the weaknesses in the story, and wrap up everything fairly well.

Despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Door Within trilogy. The Christian symbolism was generally more unique that in the average Christian fantasy series. My favorite thing about the trilogy was the high quantity of brilliant fantasy ideas that are scattered throughout the three books. A maze made from a living giant serpent creature’s coils was one of the most memorable ideas, and the series was filled with such originality, which makes it worth reading for fantasy fans.

There are a lot of violent and scary scenes, but nothing extreme, and anyone who can handle The Lord of the Rings movies should be fine with it. Some feminism might annoy readers on both sides of the issue. An example was a female warrior who could unrealistically beat massively muscular male warriors, but who got captured when a male warrior needed someone to rescue.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review: Mighty Joe Young (1949)

A young girl who lives in Africa buys a pet gorilla while her dad is away from home. He reluctantly lets her keep it, and years pass, with her father dying, leaving her alone on her farm with her now huge pet gorilla. Meanwhile, an American businessman comes to Africa searching for a sensational act for his night club. When he stumbles upon the girl who can control a gorilla, he hires her and her pet to be his night club’s star attraction. However, the girl and the gorilla soon discover that fame and fortune does not bring happiness, and wonder if they will ever be able to make it home to Africa.

The action sequences involving the gorilla might seem to be the main draw of this movie, and they are often spectacular, despite the special effects being less refined than they are today. A scene involving a burning building collapsing around the protagonists is rightly legendary. Fortunately, this movie has more to offer than just good action sequences. The story is simple but deep, with plenty of fun and heartwarming moments, marred only slightly by an ending that is too tidy. I recommend this movie to anyone who isn’t bothered by old-fashioned special effects.

Content is limited to mild violence and scary scenes, so it's safe for most viewers.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Book Review: Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography by W. Y. Fullerton

Charles Spurgeon was a pastor whose writings have been sadly neglected in our day, but I enjoy reading his masterful works. When I wanted to read a biography of him, I came across this one, and the author says this about it:

The contemporary sketches of the life of Spurgeon are an interesting conglomerate of significant facts, but they scarcely give an adequate picture of the man as he lived and laboured with such prodigious energy. It seemed desirable, therefore, that before those who knew him and shared in his ministry had passed away, someone who had the privilege of his friendship should say the things about him that still needed to be said, and place the familiar things in truer perspective than was possible at the time.

I found this biography a fascinating read, though sometimes a bit slow. It examines different aspects of the man and his life in each chapter, rather than being entirely chronological. Those who have no particular interest in Spurgeon are likely to be bored by the way it carefully lays out the facts, but those who are interested in him will likely appreciate the fairly thorough overview of his story. I enjoyed getting a fuller understanding of this man of God, including learning more about the two biggest controversies of his controversial ministry. His heroic stand for truth, even when it was unpopular, is inspiring.

This book is safe for all ages, and can be read for free online: Charles Haddon Spurgeon: A Biography

Whether or not you read this biography, you should at least read some of the writings of the man himself, such as this brilliant sermon: The Talking Book