Monday, December 8, 2008
Recently, I finished reading Monster, by Frank Peretti. I cut my teeth on Peretti with his first books, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness. Both are supernatural thrillers about spiritual warfare. Angels are major characters in these books, and I'd be lying if I said they didn't contribute somewhat to my interest in angelic fiction in general, and to Giant and Death Angel specifically.
Monster is a truly great work of Christian fiction, a genre with rules all its own, like other kinds of fiction. Christian fiction generally tackles an issue of importance in Christian life. This time, the issue is evolution. I commend Peretti for not being too preachy, but just telling a good story and letting the story do the preaching. Most Christian fiction has the fault of being too milquetoast, but not Monster. Full of fight and flight scenes, it will keep you on the edge of your seat.
(Here's a picture of Peretti)
This is how Monster advertises itself, from the front flap of the dust jacket:
Reed Shelton organized this survival weekend. Hired the best guide in the region. Meticulously trained, studied, and packed while encouraging his wife, Beck, to do the same. But little did they know that surviving the elements would become the least of their worries.
During their first night of camping, an unearthly wail pierces the calm of the forest. Then someone--no, something--emerges from the dense woods and begins pursuing them. Everything that follows is a blur to Reed--except for the unforgettable image of a huge creature carrying his wife into the darkness.
Dependent on the efforts of a small town and band of friends, Reed knows they have little time to find Beck. Even more important, he soon realizes that they aren't the only ones doing the hunting. Something much faster, more relentless--and definitely not human--has begun to hunt them.
Frank Peretti is at the top of his game in this ultimate tale of "survival of the fittest." Nothing is as it first appears in this thriller where things that go bump in the night are only a heartbeat away.
One thing that Monster lacks (in a positive way) is that element that is always obligatory and gratuitous in Christian fiction. Just as the romance novel always has an obligatory and gratuitous sex scene, so the Christian novel always has a scene that goes, "And so (insert main character's name) bowed (his/her) head and prayed to receive Jesus as (his/her) savior and lord." Now don't get me wrong--there's nothing wrong with receiving Jesus as your savior and lord. That's what our faith is all about. But it gets pretty predictable if every Christian novel centers around that. In this story, there's none of that--just some main characters finding courage in a tough situation, and learning that God is there no matter what. A good lesson for all.
Another thing that Monster lacks (in a positive way) is a neat and tidy ending. Things don't necessarily end, theologically, the way you'd expect them to. I was left pondering Shakespeare's statement, “There are more things in heaven and earth…than are dreamt of in our philosophy (Shakespeare, William. Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 5 (1604)." And that's a good thing.