Captain Nemo by Kevin J. Anderson

I have never read an alternative history before and this book isn’t even typical for that genre. This is a cross between the scientific fantasy of Jules Verne and alternate history. Of course, that would only make sense since this is about Verne’s Captain Nemo.

For those of you who might have forgotten, Jules Verne wrote Around the World in Eighty Days, Journey to the Center of the Earth, From Earth to the Moon and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (from which the Captain Nemo comes). Anderson asks the question, “What if Captain Andre Nemo was a real person and what if his adventures inspired Jules Verne’s writings?� And so begins a fantastic tale that is a worthy tribute to Verne and his tremendous imagination. I wonder if Verne himself would have approved of this book? I suspect that the answer is a resounding yes.

This is a dark tale, but nothing else is possible if you plan to write about the dark and forbidding captain from 20,000 Leagues. Captain Nemo tells the tale of this boyhood friend of Verne who defies all odds and survives in spite of everything life throws his way. From the beginning of the book, one realizes that things are always going to take a turn for the worse. That is the tragedy of this tale. Fear not though, even though this story is characterized by cruel twists of “fate,� it has enough happy moments to keep it from being a morbid and twisted tale. Nemo floats over the African continent in a balloon and circles the globe in the Nautilus. He survives pirates, shipwreck, dinosaurs beneath the earth, war, imprisonment, injuries and the tedium of building Parisian sewers. Through all of this, you come to empathize with Nemo, Verne and the lovely Caroline. Life seems to conspire against them and their dreams.

When forced to charge with the Light Brigade during the Crimean war, Nemo’s opposition to war moves from a smoldering ember to a raging fire. Personal tragedy piled upon senseless personal tragedy turns Nemo into a cold-blooded killer who declares war on War itself. Despite all of his adventures, trials and tragedies, Anderson does not leave you feeling empty at the end of the story. He closes the book powerfully and beautifully with a truly well written ending. (Don’t spoil it by reading the ending ahead of time….)

Captain Nemo has two problems. First, there are several mild oaths in the book. Secondly, Nemo and Caroline have an affair in two places in the book. The affair is described so delicately, that I was not certain what was occurring until it was referenced later. In the end, both incidences are mentioned but not described in the least. Overall, it would rate a mild PG. Throughout the book, Caroline strives to remain honorable before society and she takes care to remain proper in her conduct with those around her.

If you want to read an intriguing fiction that is very different from most fare being offered, then pick up a copy of this book. You won’t regret it.

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Short post on Bunyan’s Holy War

John Bunyan in his work, The Holy War, tells about the experiences, trials, battles, and ultimate deliverance of the city of Mansoul. The story begins with Mansoul’s origin and innocence and then chronicles her fall through the deception of Diabolus, her deliverance and pardon from Prince Emmanuel, her later unfaithfulness to the Prince, and finally her deliverance from the renewed attacks of Diabolus and the Diabolonians. The history of Mansoul and her interaction with various people (such as Lord Will-be-will, Mr. Conscience, Lord Incredulity, Mr. Carnal Security, and Mr. Godly-fear) parallels the real experiences of the human soul and Bunyan effectively presents the story on both literal and allegorical levels. The allegorical level of the story presents the human soul as it progresses through the whole salvation experience from its sinful beginning (the reign of Diabolus in Mansoul) to its regeneration (initial conquest and pardon of Emanuel), its various spiritual struggles (Mr. Carnal Security and the indwelling Diabolonians) to its spiritual maturity (Emmanuel’s second deliverance of Mansoul). Bunyan writes in classic Elizabethan English and the story is easy to read and flows pretty smoothly. The level of detail and the way most elements have a dual meaning is unparalleled by few other works except for maybe The Pilgrim’s Progress. The clear presentation of the gospel combined with the realistic storyline creates a unique and effective vehicle for conveying Bunyan’s message. Somehow Bunyan is able to write an exciting and worthwhile story while also preaching a sermon on the nature and salvation of man. This book should be read by believers of all ages and it would profit them well. Bunyan’s warnings and exhortations are applicable even to this day.

White (The Circle Trilogy vol. 3) by Ted Dekker

Well, if you’ve read the first two books, then there isn’t much for me to say. You will probably order this book long before reading this. Not that I blame you, of course. The books are great. As before, I enjoyed this book. I thought the statement about how Christians should interact with the world was well done. Isolationism is wrong, but so is the idea of acting like the world to win the world. Remaining distinctive while loving them to salvation is the appropriate balance.

To take this concept of interacting with the world a bit further, let’s consider several things. First, Christ taught that we should love our enemies. We cannot do that if we live in isolation from those enemies. Paul re-affirmed our need to interact with the world when he wrote that we should not come out of the world. But, we are also taught that we should be holy as God is holy. The holiness of God dictates that He exists separate from sin. Therefore, Christians must live separated from sin. This is a tightrope over the Niagara Falls. How do you live separated from sin and live distinctly from a world that is characterized by sin without leaving the world or losing your interaction with the world? That is the topic of many books and not one that can be answered simply. If it is possible to simplify this, then it would follow like this: love the Lord your God supremely (which means that you obey His commands and act like Him) and then love others (treat others) the same way that you love yourself.

Today, it seems that broader evangelical Christianity dumps any and all forms of separation for “interaction with the culture� in hopes to win the world. While that is a noble goal, becoming like the world to win the world removes the distinctive nature of Christianity – it makes Christianity impotent. The “Fundamentalists� and those on the extreme right struggle with the opposite side of the tightrope. They struggle with excessive dissociation with society around them. Neither extreme is correct, but I have to argue that if you are going to fail, then the separation side of the rope is the best side on which to fall. And I argue that for one simple reason: The greatest commandment is not about loving those around us, but instead about loving God. So if you are going to fail, then at least fail because you were avoiding sin and consequently people, not because you were committing sin by staying with the people you were evangelizing. God desires holiness first, evangelism second.

On a second note, I am amazed by the brilliance of Ted Dekker. I know someone who has some interaction with Dekker and this friend commented that Dekker has so many ideas in his head that he struggles to find the time to get them out of his head and onto paper. I believe it. Every book/series by Dekker is vastly different from the others. The only theme that ties the books together is the obvious effort on his part to teach some truth. To demonstrate this brilliance, one need only look at the covers of the Circle Trilogy. Each cover is completely symbolic. I can’t understand how someone could develop that let alone all of the fascinating works that Dekker writes. This is an author to watch and read.

Red (The Circle Trilogy vol. 2) by Ted Dekker

If you haven’t read Black, read the review of that book and then read it first. Red continues the Circle Trilogy. How Dekker developed the complexities and plot turns in this book, I have no idea, but he did a great job. While the Black focused on the present more than the future world, Red focuses on the future more than the present. Changes are occurring quickly in both realities. With the clock running out for the present, Thomas finds a way to lock himself in the future with the hope of securing a cure for the past. With the changes that occurred in the future world, Thomas finds himself leading a band of followers trying to be true to the Great Romance (I suspect that Eldredge’s Epic influenced this concept). Thomas and those with him must leave their perfect life of harmony with the Creator and now must struggle with sin and death. The desert dwellers are attempting to invad the pockets of life where Thomas and his followers live amongst trees and water. Dekker begins to expound on the symbolism that lines the pages of these three books: Even the covers and titles of the books are symbolic. I like the touch with the name of the high priest. The consonants of his name are the same as Caiaphas….

Read this book. I don’t know what else to say without spoiling the plot. I do know someone who was upset with the book. Apparently, she couldn’t find a good place to set the book down. She felt compelled to keep reading incessantly. I understand entirely.

Black: The Birth of Evil (The Circle Trilogy vol. 1) by Ted Dekker

Do not read this book, if you do not have time to finish it! This is a true page-turner! I must say that this is the most enjoyable read that I have read in years. Without a doubt, Dekker has a talent for writing. Dekker actually changes his writing style based upon the current situation in the plot. In some sections, he writes with a standard prose that fits the smooth flow and low tension of that portion of the plot. In the action/high tension sequences, the sentences become short and staccato. He uses quite a few one-word or one-phrase sentences. No, they are not true sentences, but they assist in the punch line of a joke or the rhythm of the story. I do not know how many other authors do this, but I noticed it here. Several times, he could have written a mildly funny sentence, but instead he removed the adverb (or whatever word made the sentence truly amusing) and dropped it after the sentence. The effect was to accentuate the humor and increase the effect of the punch line. (As an aside, Dekker does not use this writing technique in any of his other books).

Black is about a genetically engineered virus that a terrorist organization is trying to obtain and release upon the world. Only Thomas with his strange dreams can stop this from occurring. Whenever Thomas falls asleep in this reality, he wakes up in a future world. When he falls asleep there, he wakes up in the present. Both realities are headed for destruction with Thomas as their only hope. While this plot sounds a bit dull, Dekker makes it engrossing. Do not write off the book, because the plot sounds a bit simple or dull. That would be a mistake.

The future world is an almost perfect place and is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. Dekker uses the future world as symbolic of the present age and uses that world as a platform to speak to the church. Very little of the symbolism is evident in this book, but the rest of the series begins to open up that symbolism. My only complaint with this book is the “crossover” nature of the writing. A Christian will read the book and read into it much of what Dekker desires you to read. The secular reader will enjoy the book but miss the important theology. Dekker does not include an explicit conversion or explain explicitly his theology. Therefore, an unsaved person would enjoy the book, but miss the important message running through the book. I dislike the attempt at making material “crossover.â€? The Christian should be distinctive and the World should know it. Of course, C. S. Lewis argued that his books were designed to educate the pagan. He thought that certain values (honor, justice, truth, integrity and sacrifice to name a few) were being lost to society and that this loss would make evangelism much harder. Through his Narnia Chronicles, Lewis hoped to lay a foundation upon which a Believer could witness to the unsaved at a later date. In that sense, Dekker’s series is fine. Still, I struggle with books that seem to be written as “closet” evangelism. Take it as you will. The books are worth reading.

I found is book to be fabulously enjoyable. This book will interest anyone who likes fantasy or thrillers. It balances both very well. This is a true page turner.