Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday update: Robbie's birthday edition

Technically, Robbie's birthday is tomorrow. But you know.

I read three grown-up books this week! Man, I wish I was still involved in Book-It! I'd have so many personal pan pizzas right now...

My goal was to finish my two library books before I left for vacation. The third was a super-quick read that was absolutely perfect summer vacation reading. Two fairly heavy and (in once case, surprisingly) spiritual stories followed by a light-hearted romp through the world of goblins and other monsters.

Book #35 of 78
The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
by Stephen King

Stephen King is an author who is consistently surprising me. In this case, I was stunned at the profoundly spiritual flavor this book had. The writing is very good (if a tad repetitive for the first half of the book) and, as always, the story is well-told, but at some point this graphically survival tale of a nine-year-old girl in the forest becomes a profoundly theological fable. Now, you could very easily read the book without embracing any theology present and just enjoy it for the story, but as I read more of King I'm really starting to notice a strong thread of spiritual struggle and victory permeating a lot of his later work. Whether you embrace the spiritual material or not, it's definitely a story that leaves you thinking after you close the back cover. There's a lot of meat in these two-hundred-and-some quick pages.

Book 36:
Christ the Lord
by Anne Rice

Anne Rice is the lady who wrote all those dark vampire novels before coming back to the church in the mid-2000s. (Or was it the early 2000s? I don't recall exactly) This novel is a fictitious account of the year or two from Christ and His family's return from Egypt to Nazareth. It is steeped very heavily in Roman Catholic tradition and mythology, drawing from some of the apocryphal stories of the Gospel of Thomas (which Rice concedes in her author's note is making a presumption that these writings can be trusted as scripture, a presumption she's willing to make). It's also very boring and often formulaic, as you go from a chapter of young Jesus settling in and being happy to a chapter of some historical tragedy to a chapter of Jesus doing a miracle and not understanding how He can do such things, then things settle down and He's happy again until the next tragedy. You get about four or five cycles before He learns the truth of His birth and the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem. (Uh, spoilers, I guess?)

HOWEVER, as I finished the book, I found myself struck, not by the writing, but by the reality of Christ in the flesh, born of a woman, living as a child and then a man, learning, struggling, living. Whether or not I agreed with the way Anne Rice presented it (I didn't, mostly) I was forced to reckon with that idea, and it was pretty humbling and awesome. Fully-God, fully-man. Amazing.

Also, I deeply appreciated the nearly-30-page author's note at the end, where Rice talked about her spiritual journey from faithful Catholic to hardcore atheist to honest seeker back to believer. Really fascinating insight.

So, take that for what you will.

Book 37:
Goblin War
by Jim C. Hines

This is currently the biggest surprise on my ever-expanding reading list. I picked this up half-expecting it to be terrible and obnoxious, but it was actually fairly clever and quite charming. The story is well-woven with some amusing twists and surprises that, for the most part, aren't terribly far-fetched.

This is the third book in a set, but from my experience you really didn't need the earlier volumes to understand what was happening. They reference events from the other Jig the Goblin stories, but it's always in past-tense, and it usually brings you up to speed in regards to what you need to know. I read this book in a day and a half, and that with plenty of distractions, so it's a super-fast read with a lot of fun packed into each chapter.

Further, if you've ever been disenchanted with the classic children's book The Giving Tree, then this novel is a MUST read. I won't say anything more, but your jaw will drop. It's really one of the most amazing pages I've read in the past year. ;-)

So, in review: If you like dark suspense stories with surprising depth, check out Tom Gordon. If you like boring, speculative Catholic fiction about Jesus, you want Christ the Lord. If you want fun and nothing more, enjoy Goblin War.

Pages: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon (272) Christ the Lord (322) Goblin War (336) = 930
Total pages: 11,510
Avg pages/book: 311.08

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