The Wolves of Midwinter

Saturday, January 22, 2011

   Empty Vessel

     What was the proper technique of respectfully glancing upon a dead cadaver?  If the body was someone unfamiliar, I might have scrutinized it in a quest to seek out the identity of it. Something like eye color, clothing choice, hair, and other unmistakable differences between different humans might have helped me with the task.
                Except, doing that felt too operational for a body that had memories involved. It felt disrespectful to study the body with intent besides trying to just shrug myself out of this panic. I already knew who this person was. Why would I have to study their corpse for identity? I only wished that it was unidentifiable only to dull the pain.
                Maybe, the surge of grief has already entrapped me into this inescapable prison of numbness. Every possibility besides that one which said, “he was dead,” were the only ones which were lucid. All the others were suspended, distant. I couldn’t grab hold of them with a firm grasp. I could only keep believing in the lie that life still persisted somewhere within that empty shell before me.
                Staring down into my comrade’s brown eyes, I detected no movement. No ounce of life floated in that prism that was an eyeball. I wanted to will the eyeball to begin moving about and seeking a recognizable person. For my own personal sanity, I wanted to see that eye to recognize me.
                Was it self-seeking to want him to live if only to destroy the truth of mortality? Selfishly, Did I want him to survive beyond his endpoint only to make the illusion of immortality remain?  I never was fond of this whole cruel notion of death. It seemed crude. Why should we die only to be left forgotten to the world?
                I temporarily averted my gaze from the corpse in order to stall my selfish ruminations. My comrade died heroically in battle; he took the bullet that would have surely taken my life instead. He selflessly sacrificed himself in the place of me. In my place, he took the dive into the unmentioned black abyss that wiped out existence. Yet, I still held memories of this nonentity if that is what you would call someone who dies an atheist death.
                My colleagues back at the university I attended for four years applauded me for my firmness in defending countless atheistic arguments. I’ve always proclaimed that the acceptance of a meaningless, nihilistic existence was not just simple; it was reality.
                When I was left staring at the brutal reality of death, I wanted to tackle that younger self into oblivion. I craved that moment of recompense for all those wasted efforts to please my more intellectual peers. In those moments, I wasn’t embracing some grain of truth. Wasn’t I only diverting myself from the impossibility of fully believing in a God? Or, was I avoiding the crest of pain associated with the possibility that a life of religion may be even more worthless than the atheistic beliefs?
                How many hells or heavens could my comrade, Nick, passed through? That was his name, Nick. See, I’m still remembering the existence he had on this Earth before fading away.
                A part of my mind wandered from this heated debate in my head as I marveled the manner his sandy locks blended with the desert’s sand. Where the hell did this thought appear out of?  Who knows? But, I could not help but note the strange manner that his hair color blended it in with the sand.
                This was not some thought sourced from sexual desire. It was just a thought that delayed me from furthering the painful thought process that surrounded his death.  I just couldn’t help but notice the sameness of his hair and the sand in color. His uniform was also the same coloring since it was one of the lighter, camouflage uniforms used for military missions within the desert.  The only thing that meshed with the perfection of this blending was the onyx color of the large gun that was fixed to the holster on his belt.
                The contraption was obtuse and looked out of place with the peacefulness of his dead body. Strangely, the gun was parallel to his left hip.  For now, it remained in non-use. Before dying, he was probably shooting liberally with the gun in an attempt to defend both himself and others.
                During those moments of intense action, the thing was a feral beast. When it saw a predator, it was aimed at that person who then was quickly shot into oblivion.
                It worked a lot like those video games. You had to adapt yourself to a mind frame of willful ignorance on either side of the playing field; all soldiers had to universally be prepared to dehumanize their opponent. Then, they had to reign in the wild beast which was a gun and be prepared to shoot these animal-like humans.
                You could never once think about any sort of ethical structure. I know many religions will assert that you can properly kill someone by believing fully that your enemy was an evil incarnate. Except, these people were much like you. They were enslaved by a higher authority that did not want to sully their consciences. So, they had to lawfully arranged cronies do their bidding instead.
                How could I think in these terms? If this was an earlier part of history, I could have been killed by the guillotine. Now, that was if I voiced these innumerable thoughts. I swear if every human arrayed their thoughts out into the public sphere; we would all be realized as criminals. Did every solider or person r think this way? I honestly don’t know.
                Again, I was only being evasive of the inevitable. I had to deal with my fallen comrade before me. Who would understand my feelings of apathy? I’m supposed to be tearful right now. When I walked back to my army’s campsite, I had to feebly walk because I had to look like I was encumbered by noticeable despair.
                Once home, I would have to walk home victoriously. If I served my nation right, I would have to recount these false feelings of victory and triumph. Everyone had to believe in this wonderful image of war being the best exercise of patriotism.
This was the apex of manliness. By dodging the bullets and getting out physically unscathed, men around me might finally notice me. If I still had attended my church, I would have developed fallacious sermons about feeling thankful that God helped me to survive.
None of the parishioners wanted to hear about the moral ambiguity. Even people outside my church wanted to hear me describe battles with false bravado. Surely, my dad and all those sanctimonious men wanted to pat me appreciatively on the back and say, “God and all of us are proud of your selfless service to our country and the righteous cause of wiping out the abominations of our world.”
Once my sorrowful speech was over, wouldn’t the church use my tragedy as an example? Would they not use my moral sacrifice as proof that we should rid the world of their proposed evil? I was a spectacle, a sensation to these people. They loved that artificial form of me that did not speak the truth that I felt empty and disillusioned with life.
I’m sure that after that speech, the pastor would step up to the podium that I recently vacated. He would wipe off the imaginary dust or grime that accumulated on his black or white robes. Then, he would create a wobbly transition from my heartfelt speech.
Everyone listened with rapt attention to the pastor’s words and thought of them as God’s own words or commandments. Certainly, he would tread lightly over the piece about hell though he would make certain to emphasize the fact that homosexual individuals more so than the liars, slanderers, and the thieves were the most abominable.
Wasn’t Nick bisexual? I never really paid any particular attention to his sexual orientation until the imagined pastor mentioned “those abominable homosexuals.” If I was a good, penitent Christian then I would sit undisturbed at the mention of my fallen comrade going to hell. At that mention, I had to say my thankful prayers that the comrade whom I revered for many more important reasons was to be unseen in heaven. That is, if there is a heaven.
Part of me would want to run up the podium and scream plaintively that the pastor had no true consideration of the value for life. How many aunts, uncles, sisters, and an immeasurable amount of humans were being dumped into hell?
The whole notion of hell is a distant nightmare. It is cartoonish and unreal enough for our moral selves to consider it or even treat it lightly. Yet, if the hell was immediate and occurring within our own reality; wouldn’t we protest incessantly about the inhumanity and the unfairness of it?
In church, I could not speak the truth of my thoughts. Therefore, I banished myself from the church with no word to my relatives. Behind their back, I delved into atheistic creed only to find my worst nightmares becoming manifest. I was only becoming a believer into another nightmare that was equally as terrible as the possibility of hell.
I believed in neither hell nor some meaningless universe that continuously defied cause and effect. The only thing that I held belief in was the allure and promising elements of love and empathy. With love, I could fully stare down into the eyes of my comrade. I was permitted to glance at him with the vast numbers of good thoughts about him.
He was benevolent in the way he always stretched himself out to include the known and unknown people around him. Or, he always remained uplifting and humorous during our campsite gatherings. At those gatherings, every one of the soldiers could have fallen deeply into a crippling, brood session
Nick used to maintain a convivial spirit among the soldiers. He handpicked the situations in life that he could leech humor out of. Every one of us in response laughed through the burden of our pain. As our sadness welled up, we laughed riotously at Nick’s jokes to triumph over that darkness.
As I reminisced about these moments, I could partially accept the fact he was dead. Some part of me could laugh lightly and even create some tears by the end. Was my former numbness then only part of my resolve to not think about death? Or, was it to neglect the truth of love and human goodness in exchange for the valueless societal beliefs of manly valor, legalistic beliefs about God, the celebratory statements about warfare?
From experience, I knew that these beliefs were erroneous and unimportant. Actually, any partial hold I had upon those beliefs was destroyed when the first mine impacted with one of my comrades. From there on, I only strove to believe that in the bedlam of war, there had to some small indication that there was human goodness. Beyond that, I had to believe that there was worth to our lives.
I couldn’t believe that we were reduced to living brainlessly in sync with rigid, religious beliefs. Neither, could I accept the awful reality that everything about this life is temporal. Beyond this lies a terrain of nothingness where our lives become forgotten. All that science that scientists strive to create vanishes with the supposed deletion of human life. How can anyone accept that nothingness when it even makes scientific discoveries become a non-essential?  
Who knows how much time had passed with all these thoughts? My brain was overpowering my ability to maintain my sense of the mission. I didn’t know where I was supposed to be currently.  Without forewarning, I erupted into tears and gasps.
I don’t know how this came about. Before, I had been very stolid as many thoughts percolated in my mind. Now, I was crying even more intensely as I kept staring down at Nick’s inanimate corpse. The lifelessness of it made me extremely sad.
More and more tears coalesced down my paled face. There was no way I could think about that theoretical nothingness or religious hell without my cries becoming even more intense.
None of the more joyful moments with him could make me laugh. I just continued crying as the blackness enveloped my thoughts which made all my previous thoughts become indistinct.
It worked like a sudden rainstorm. As more rain pelted the earth, the darkness around it grew in severity. Soon enough, no sheen of light leaked through this wide pocket of darkness. Only more rain fell till the hope of any sun was forgotten.
I trembled with the bizarre feeling of coldness permeating my body. Though, before I felt overwhelmingly hot due to the blistering sunlight that still shone. But, only the coldness of my body seemed real.
Soon enough, I fell upon the sand and began to convulse uncontrollably. Every nerve of my muscle rang and coiled around my muscles. My muscles trembled more and tried to determinately shake off the panicked nerves’ grasp.
The tears slowed down and even the trembling sensation that my nerves created wore off. Left behind was the same state of numbness. Now, my whole body felt like it was being refrigerated or embalmed from any more series of thoughts about the implications of his death. Speaking the word “death,” felt like the utterance of a forbidden curse that could spell the destruction of everything I held dear.
Don’t some bereaved people commit suicide? I could kill myself yet I did not have it in me to do that. I was too cowardly to do that. Plus it felt like a disrespectful thing to do after someone died in your place.
So, instead I continued to sit restively on the sands of this balmy desert. I waited for a moment of restoration that may never happen. With the reality of death laid before me, I sat with my back to it and thought about all those things which might have made me blasphemous.
In just thirty seconds, I could recant my belief in God. Then, I could believe in it once again by quickly offering a prayer of forgiveness. Or, I could plunge myself into the miasma of atheistic nothingness. Above both those things, I could wander through the ideal of a loving, ethical society that Aristotle and Plato would have approved of.
Who knows what sort of beliefs or realities I could trigger with my brain? All I know is that I couldn’t look at the empty husk that lay behind me. No, I refused to glance back at death.
Instead, I chose to live my life by perusing the philosophies of humanity that offered reasons for our existence. Externally, I could be an authentic believer of these things for a time. Internally, I would just be using them as a mental distraction from that acknowledgment of death. In death, would any of these things matter?
I cradled my own gun within my lap and stared down at it. Looking at it, I heard the pained screams of its murdered victims. Also, I heard its derisive laugh over the fact that life was easily destroyed.
Disgusted, I stared away from it and thought of love in its entire false splendor. I thought of the equality that all humans share in terms of not truly understanding the purpose of this life. Then, I saw the towers of our metropolises and thought of the desperation we have in reaching that purpose. After that, I thought of the censorship or destruction of the artfulness of those towers. By the end, we only destroyed our attempts at creating meaning because we were too afraid of that possibility that it might not hold meaning.
Perhaps, we kill because we want to protect ourselves from that reality that we’re not immortal. Maybe, we sometimes are merciless in our pursuit to kill because we only want to extend our own lives. Potentially, we arrogantly make our faulty human philosophies become infallible only to make ourselves become indestructible.
Every other person can be decimated. But our own selves must stay protected from that journey into a place beyond death or the total loss of our conscience. We want to stay in this protective bubble that is live. We’ll even destroy other people’s lives in order to distance ourselves from reaching that death.
What was truth and what things are falsehoods? In the end, what is the purpose behind this masquerade of life where some people exit by the interference of selfish actors? Where was I within this confusing set that someone had to design for it to be rooted in reality? Did someone even design it? The fool on stage left seems to confidently believe that the stage has always been there. On stage right, the other foolhardy actor feels superior to the other actors. He thinks that the creator of this stage will judge us on our indestructible faults.
A dizzying sensation overtook me in the present. I was confused by the disarray of my thoughts. Suddenly, some desperate part of me even tries to conjure lustful thoughts to distract me from this storm.
“Stop,” I command my thoughts to completely stall even though some filter in through this. After that, I forcibly rested myself upon the grainy sand. I neither looked at my comrade nor thought about the morass of my thoughts.
Instead, I thought about the most loving images possible: a sweet kiss from some imagined lover; fond moments of comfortable family chaos; the examples of humble religious people who loved above all other things; the beauty of the human desire for the transcendent within a bible without dogma; the ineffable sensation of feeling edified by great music, art, or literature; and that wonderful   voice in our minds that felt that loving others was a necessity.
Enfolded in these images, I felt peace finally as I fell into sleep and waited for one of my comrades to find me and Nick. As I fell into this dark oblivion of sleep where consciousness still nestled, I held steadfast to the hope that I would wake up to the reality of my dreams.  
Book Recommendations from my Blog Readers:

I hate feeling this useless or lost. Though, I'm desperately in need of a new book to fulfill that void within. I'm facing one of those trials where you are sifting through piles of books with intriguing and puzzling premises only to feel unfulfilled by the book once it is started.

Naturally, I'm a very selective reader. I usually am unable to fill due dates for book reviews because some of the books are very boring, meaningless, and plodding. Some of them have deceptive, flashy covers that promise a fantastically intelligent read. When you finally plunge into the cold waters of this soulless book, you're left dreaming of that warmer pool of well concocted plots, dimensional characters, and insightful comments about human nature.

Honestly, these books are so hard to find. Recently, I read a book called "Sherlockian." I felt very excited before cracking the cover. I absolutely love the witticism and intelligence of the original Sherlocke Holmes story. Yet, I discovered that the book was very mediocre. The characters ended up being empty husks with no substance. They were uninteresting Sherlock Holmes role players that had no idea or clue how to perfect the characters of Watson or Sherlock Holmes. Even, the inner mystery itself was bereft of the elusiveness that permeates the original stories. Hardly anything about this book made me believe that the author truly understood the rewarding qualities of the Sherlock Holmes story. Yes, the prose may have been prettied. But, the internal qualities of the story itself made me feel absent. It left me with the unfilled hole in my heart that hungers for something substantive.

Why is it so hard to find stories that impact you? Why are there many fantasy, sci-fi, or mystery books that are developed with the exception of finely crafted characters? When you do finally find them, the feelings that you get from this impacting stories are fleeting. Right before you, they dematerialize and you're left with that emptiness that ensues as you wander the library for something meaningful to read. I want something that helps me to explore all those questions that persistently bug me. More than anything, I crave characters who affix themselves to your heart and make you passionately care about anything that might befall them.

Blog followers, I ask you for recommendations. I'm normally the one who distributes reviews for books that I loved. But, I really need you to recommend me some  stories that you believe to be fantastic. You know the credentials for the types of books I read: I love things that have characters and stories that entrap you. I want insights that mystify you. What I don't want? I don't want stories that deflate your ability to see the artistry of the world, the stories that are filled with procedural battle scenes, or stale characters that only serve to partially enliven an overwrought universe. If someone finds  a fantasy and science fiction book that has the richness of Buffy, Angel, or Firefly; I would be eternally grateful to them. Or, if someone finds a book that has that same marked complexity as a very well-made BBC Drama.
Inside the Development of Death Seer:

Remember those supposed simpler days when you were younger? I mean, everyone suggested to you that these days were grand and rightly simplified. Of course, the complications of society never meddled with your childhood happiness. You were protected at all times by this childlike prism of dreams and ideals. It was easier than to lapse into this dream realm and avoid reality at all cost. I've always wondered if the ease of drifting into the imaginary realm was easier because our souls were overpowering the demands and restrictions placed by the body. Who knows? 

Anyways, when I write it seems that I am trying to sustain that childlike ability to efficiently imagine without any restrictions. Restrictions come about in the form of adult obligations such as attending classes, seeking out a profession, or working effortlessly to seal that job. By the end of a typical, busy day, my energy is spent. That connection between real demands or dreamed ones seems indistinct or distant. I cannot readily seek it out because my mind just wants one more bodily desire appeased before bed-time. There's no more whimsicality left in me. I'm left Peter Pan in Hook after being grown up. I've dispensed the function of dreams from my mind's control center. Where have they vanished to?

This is my plight right now. I want to write desperately. Every fiber in me protests my inaction when it comes to writing. I know internally that I love it and derive satisfaction from it. Even, if in the midst of it, it seems more like drudgery to write a certain passage once or revise several more times over.  Whoever said writing was a painless, easy task? It is like any human endeavor in that it takes persistence to imagine a world completely known to you and unknown to everyone outside of your mind.

This could even be more complicated. You have to write this intricate world with brevity. If it is too superfluous, you might abandon your audience in your attempts to describe every facet of the world, plot, and characters. Therefore, you can only limit yourself to effective perspectives that people can empathize with. If no one sees a necessity to follow a certain character through the trials of the life. Then, why would anyone want to read it? You might involve zombies, carnage,a convoluted political scheme, or perhaps some supernatural intrigue. But if your characters involved with this scheme are apathetic about the world that you placed them in: Why would they or anyone care about their future fates?

See, I know I want to write. I stubbornly still clutch to that impossible dream of finally publishing the work and conversing with my readers about the story. More than anything, I cannot wait to hear people's reactions. Even if that person feels the need to rant and rave about the book's poor qualities, I still want to hear about their experience with the world and characters who persist every day within my imagination.

Sometimes, I have excited people ask me about a date of completion. I always appreciate the excitement that stews over the story.  At least, someone is interested in delving into my delusions. Maybe, someone will not find me to be either morbid or sadistic. They may actually understand the underlying message that fills the surface of the story. They are the types of people who understand the purpose of storytelling in that sometimes we are reflecting the true state of the world. But, we writers are also imagining some trajectory to show ways we can improve ourselves as a world or find better ways of connecting deeply with other people.

What will people think about my story? Does it defy too many genres? What sort of genre marker should it label itself with? I cannot even sum up a simple sentence that encompasses all the elements of the story. Everyone thinks it is about a boy who has the ability to foresee the deaths of other people. What about the psychological effects of seeing these images? Does he truly believe in them himself? What is the source of these imaginings: are they genetic or purely manifestations of a psychologically troubled boy? Can these images be used to imposed themselves on a preformed future? How much of our futures are planned in advance?

Here is the main reason why simple explanations about the plot cannot be completed. I could write pages on top of pages to explain the plot. By doing that, am I not simply writing the novel that will answer that question: So, fantastyfreak, what is this novel of yours about? Well, someday, you shall see. For now, you must wait while I conjure the confidence to write the remainder of the story.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour for C.S. Lankin's The Wolf of Tebron: Day 2 Post
 The Review:
(Thanks Living Ink Books for this complimentary copy of yet another quality book from your library!)

   The curve of difficulty for this review is high. Why? Typically, reviews are such a commonplace feature of this blog: How then could these reviews pose such problems for a seasoned reviewers such as myself? Well, I'm not seasoned since my sum total years is still drastically lower than most blog reviewers. But, this review caused me many problems because the book leaves you with a sense of over-stimulation. It is the beneficial over stimulation that leaves the listener of a great opera with a a feeling of delirium. Afterwords,  you are stunned to the point where you cannot sort out the emotions that this particular work elicited. You're just left with a feeling that you marveled such an awe-inspiring beauty that you can no longer hold that full remembrance in your head. 

  Maybe the wolf in this story can elaborate on this phenomenon that this life in itself feels greatly incomplete. Every-day, we wake up with these preconceived ideals for the day that will reap the greatest amount of fulfillment. Where do these ideas linger? In our dreams, perhaps? Well certainly, this story itself leaves one with the feeling of good incompleteness. It stirs in us this insatiable longing for the continuation and progression of all the greatest elements of our world. Whether you believe in God or not, doesn't the Christian life exist as a doubtful journey because we are anxious for the full scope of the many potential wonders of our world. 

   The hero journey resonates because it models our journey through the world. In this book, we are given a very innovative, edifying portrayal of the hero journey. In many ways, the book "Siddhartha," in that the main character is searching for meaning through the restoration of his lost wife. There are far more weightier issues  that underlay this search for a lost wife. Siddhartha searches for a viable form of true love and peace throughout that novel. In this novel that peculiarly reflects the spiritual journey of this one, the hero searches and scrutinizes the four different human moods  as  represented by the elemental figures of this world. Within Siddhartha, the main hero tries different approaches to connecting to the ever-present metaphysical forces within his world.

      "The Wolf of Tebron," had some issues including a tendency for the prose to become far too imposing. Sometimes, the beauty and sensuality of the language overshadowed or distracted too much from the important events that unfolded in the book. Again, the descriptions were skillfully written and effectively enthralled you. Occasionally, the dreamlike images transposed themselves on the leftover thoughts after you read the book. So, in a sense, the rich images were very important when it came to drawing the reader in. I could not stop reading the story because the images lent themselves to obsessive reading. C.S. Lankin wisely followed her writing peers in using the tactic of "show, don't tell," and did not appear didactic or false when presenting various moral truths. Instead, the images powerfully showed the dynamics of the main character's emotional struggle. Every adjective used became a way for the author to amplify the effectiveness of the images instead of over-describing the characters.  Still though, sometimes the images were a bit too excessive and sometimes stilted the flow of the story.

   But this issue is largely minor and may not even be a chief concern for many readers. Story-wise, this book is very good and shows the author's adeptness in structuring meaningful literature. It is hard to find something that promotes so much thought and ethical evaluation. This book did this without instructing me under the threat of losing favor with God. The naturalistic beauty of the world that I beheld in this book made me hunger for the unseen promoter of love and morality in my own world. Certainly, the sequel coming out soon will be a required read for me because C.S. Lankin proved that she can master the technique of "show,don't tell," with flying colors.  I highly recommend this beautiful, thought-provoking book to all my blog readers. It is a wonderful homage to the tried and true way of creating stories that serves a function to entertain and makes us deeply think about the architect of our world and ourselves.

Monday, January 03, 2011

CSFF Blog Tour for C.S. Lankin's The Wolf of Tebron: Day 1 Post
 Fairy Tales=  Incognito Moral Tales about the conflict between our "selves"

   All fairy tales on the surface have this saccharine quality. In many ways, they are quaint and even delightful. Yes, there are momentary threats to the story world of a fairy tale. But in the end, some good force normally overcomes it with the sudden realization of the antagonist's weakness. What do these good and evil forces even represent? Are they merely shapes that are representative of some larger ideas, beyond the characters themselves?

Fairy Tale protagonists are occasionally symbols of ourselves: weakened, flawed humans that are in great necessity of rectifying one huge flaw within themselves. This character flaw is usually something like greed, arrogance, or pure maliciousness. It could even be the flaw of fear that prevents the protagonist from effectively acting in full participation with their true selves. 

What does the antagonist fully represent? Remember the shadow being in Earthsea, by Ursula K. Le Guin. For anyone unfamiliar with that work, the shadow self is our Mr. Hyde that is the self that fully captures that flawed self of ours that we rather not admit to having within ourselves. The protagonist cowers from this shadow self because it is the deplored self, filled with all the flaws we do not like in ourselves. Therefore, we physically seclude the antagonistic force of ourselves away in some dark region of our mind. In order to fulfill the whole creepy, Gothic exterior, we even offer this unpleasant self an inhabitable, melancholy castle that just screams "Villain."

In the end, the journey of the protagonist ultimately structures this spiritual journey of ourselves into that dreaded territory of moral flaw. But, we must trespass into the sinister territory of the antagonist even if he shows us our most abhorred form. Yes, he might be the darker Dorian Grey that greatly portrays our worst inner narcissist self.

But the hero must take up the sword of humility that is accepting of this ulterior self. We must acknowledge this antagonist or flaw's existence and allow it to fully walk within the light of conscious thought. From there, we can effectively subdue it by fully realizing that this terrifying self of vice really does not represent our true self. Behind that sword of confidence thrust in front of ourselves, there lies the fully realized self that strives in vain for a life of greater value or one filled with love. That one flaw of ourselves was only ever created to make us complacent with our unbalanced self. When we vanquish the flawed self, we are allowing ourselves not to live in fear of the flaw or to allow it to submerge our real self into an idea of nothingness. Instead, we allow it to go off into obscurity and then we can see the greater path of achieving the full potential of our real selves that has no reason to hide in the regions of nonexistence.

List of Tour Particpants (Feel Free to Explore)"> Noah Arsenault"> Amy Bissell"> Red Bissell"> Justin Boyer"> Keanan Brand"> Grace Bridges"> Beckie Burnham"> Jeff Chapman"> Christian Fiction Book Reviews"> Carol Bruce Collett"> Valerie Comer"> CSFF Blog Tour"> D. G. D. Davidson"> April Erwin"> Andrea Graham"> Nikole Hahn"> Katie Hart"> Ryan Heart"> Bruce Hennigan"> Becky Jesse"> Cris Jesse"> Becca Johnson"> Jason Joyner"> Julie"> Carol Keen"> Dawn King"> Shannon McDermott"> Matt Mikalatos"> Rebecca LuElla Miller"> Joan Nienhuis"> Nissa"> John W. Otte"> Chawna Schroeder"> Tammy Shelnut"> Kathleen Smith"> James Somers"> Rachel Starr Thomson"> Robert Treskillard"> Fred Warren"> Phyllis Wheeler

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Of Love and Evil Review:

Anne Rice books never cease to entrap me in this dreamlike state that occurs while I'm reading the books or afterwords. Normally, the need to continue reading her books dawns on you like a spontaneous desire for rich coffee or scrumptious chocolate. Every page of her books weaves an intricate web of rich design that contains many substantive spiritual truths contained within. 
Her newest entry to the "Songs of the Seraphim," series does not deviate from the established, proven formula of her other novels. This is not a form of criticism. In actuality, her formula of enticing prose, first-person perspectives of a reclusive individual, and rich historical settings elevates her books to a very high level of quality. This year alone, I have read an estimated ten or twelve Anne Rice books, alongside a slew of college-required reads. Her books leave an imprint of great intrigue that cannot be divested. Instead, the reader only craves for the next installment in one of her many series or does research on some of the intriguing historical, spiritual, or philosophical questions raised in her books.

Anne Rice's inquisitive self has always been the strength of her novels. Every novel of hers is mostly centered around some difficult spiritual question that she herself has been wrestling with. "Of Love and Evil," raises an interesting dilemna that is pivotal to our faith. Now, that we have equipped ourselves with this new Christian perspective, What determines something as a good or evil act? More importantly, could a loving act that we believe reflects the spirit of Christ be a definably evil act?

Readers are transported to Renaissance Italy to become involved with a mystery that involves a Jewish physician wrongly being convicted for supposedly poisoning their trusted, Catholic patient. Anne Rice uses this perplexing mystery to immerse the reader into this picturesque world with ease. Using Toby O'Dare as the curious soul with a spiritual dilemna, the reader's full psyche becomes attached to this main perspective. Again, these troubled, reclusive souls of Anne Rice's books work wonderfully because they essentially reflect universal themes of spiritual struggle. All of us equally,with some variance,feel spiritually bankrupt at times in our life even when we have a solid relationship with God. Similarly with the Jesus novels, spiritual struggles are not exempted from the characters even when their faith appears to be perfected. 

Whether you are a Christian or not, this novel should appeal widely to any readers that thirsts for an exciting mystery story that contains human characters with realistic flaws. More importantly, the spiritual struggles of these characters are equally faced by all individuals of differing faith backgrounds. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and agnostics alike ponder the question of our purpose for existence. Even when our beliefs appear externally solidified. We still disbelieve the beliefs we thought we had conceived. At the time of reading this novel, I struggled greatly with the question of: "What  if my supposed belief in God is worthless after I become nonexistent when I die ? 

Meaning, after I die, the whole notion of having a conscious self will become a useless ideal. If there really is nothing after our deaths then "What really is the use of striving to morally perfect ourselves?" There would be no benefits or compensation for acting benevolently towards other humans. Because, in the short frame of our human lives, we'll only be partially experiencing the wonders of a morally-superb life filled with love. We'll only have glimpses of a perfected world where our pain and struggling truly works as a cause that will bring about an effect in the form of an afterlife which informs us that our endeavors are not completely useless. Toby O'Dare chooses to undertake the risk of facing the possibility of a meaningless existence because the other solution involves  having a belief that our inclination to love is an accidental , purposeless desire. Having a God be our endpoint serves not as an escape from the pain of the reality of nothingness. It strengthens the truth that our love, our dreams, and our desires are not manufactured by a soulless machine. Internally, there exists a soul that powers this insatiable desire for transcendence. When we peer at art or are overwhelmed by the ineffable beauty of rich, symphonic music, we are having otherworldly experiences that inform our need for a God. Anne Rice books mimic that same effect. Every time, I read her books; I sense the poverty of my soul and realize the many abstract qualities or mysteries of our world that prove to us that this universe requires a God.