Monthly Archives: January 2010

CSFF bloggers on Andrew Peterson

This week the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour has been examining North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson, second in the series called the Wingfeather Saga.

Nearly all of those who blogged on the book so far (see below) liked it. Only one had some trouble getting into the book (but then, it is the second book in a series and he skipped the first book…)

Useful ideas: Participants noted that there is an audio book available inexpensively for the first book in the series (On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness), and that North! or Be Eaten is really a bit too suspenseful for a child under the age of 10.

Becky Miller delved in detail into the plot occurrences that led to the temptation of the future king, Tink, who chucked the king idea and tried to join a den of thieves.  I was happy to see this thread developed, because I had missed some of it in the exciting happenings of the book.

Robert Treskilliard pointed out that the Fork Factory in this book evokes Oliver Twist, something I hadn’t quite realized yet.

Chawna Schroeder interviewed the author, asking eight probing questions. One was what are his hopes for his readers?

…I hope the story will help them see the world we live in for the wonder that it is. Most of all I hope they brush up against that holy Other who haunts the world of man and proclaims His truth in stories and art and music. I hope the story pushes them closer to belief.

In a different post, Chawna addressed the disconnect I found between humor and dark suspense in this book, helping me a lot. Here is what she said:

“Yet the same wonderful tongue-in-cheek humor that drew me to the first (book) still adds a delightful dash of tension relief in all the right places, keeping the reader from despairing or getting bored.”

Take a look at what the other bloggers had to say:

Brandon Barr
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Jeff Draper
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Nissa
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson, a Review

northorbeeaten

North! or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson
Published 2009 by Waterbrook Press, 331 pages
Book 2 in the Wingfeather Saga
Genre: Christian fiction, middle grade

This book, neither the first nor the last in its series, could suffer from middle-of-story sag. But it doesn’t. In fact, it’s an intense read.

The three Igiby children, their mother Nia, and their grandfather Podo have teamed up with Peet the Sock Man as the book opens. In the previous book, we readers got accustomed to the fantasy world, Aerwiar (“Here we are,” the first words said at Creation), and its puckishly named creatures and features.

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby have just learned that they themselves ARE the Jewels of Anniera, which according to prophecy contain power. They are the three children of the late king of the faraway islands of Anniera, overcome nine years before by the fangs of Dang.

They have also learned that Peet the Sock Man, a local crazy person, is actually their uncle, the special guardian or throne warden of his late younger brother the king. Likewise Janner has found out that he is now throne warden for his younger brother Tink, king in exile. Janner is 12 and Tink is 10, by the way. The throne always goes to the second son, and the guardian job to the first son.

Not only do the Igiby children know who they are now, but the enemy does too. The fangs are looking near and far for them because of the prophecy about the power of the Jewels of Anniera. And so the Igibys plan to leave Peet’s tree-house hiding spot and set out for the Ice Prairies to the north, with the vague idea of teaming up with some rebels who live there.

But their journey doesn’t even get properly started. In a flurry they leave packs and supplies behind as the fangs attack. Then they flee from disaster to disaster, each less predictable than the last, always heading north.

It isn’t just endurance that’s tested. It’s also their family bond. Eventually Tink gets sick of the whole king idea and abandons the family to join a band of thieves and robbers. (As a result, woe strikes both Tink and Janner in nearly overwhelming measure.) At another point, Podo tries to jump ship too.

Can the family get back together and unite in its purpose? That is the question posed in
this book. I won’t tell you how it works out.

What do I think?

I think this book is very well written. I found myself caring very much about the missteps of this endearing family. It is in fact a different, more intense, sort of story from what I expected by reading the goofy names like Phoob Islands and predatory Bomnubbles.

What about the Christian walk? How is it modeled?  The Igiby family prays to the Maker at times of difficulty, and the Maker miraculously intervenes on a couple of occasions.   Meanwhile, there is recognition of sin and repentance, as characters review their past histories with each other. So the book is modeling some version of the Christian walk, but not deeply.  I’d say this book is more about the adventure than about teaching the Christian walk.

And what an adventure it is.  I am really looking forward to the next book.  I highly recommend the first two for all ages. –Phyllis Wheeler

This is Day Two of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour. Please take a look about what others are saying about this new Andrew Peterson series!

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, a Review

darksea

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, by Andrew Peterson
Book One of the Wingfeather Saga
Published 2008 by Waterbrook Press, 284 pages
Genre: Christian fantasy, middle grade

The three children of the Igiby family are being raised by their mother and their grandfather. Oddly, they know almost nothing about their late father, not even his name. They live just outside Glipwood, a rustic village on the edge of the sea, in the house built by their grandfather many, many years before.

Their semi-idyllic existence is marred by the fact that their country, Skree, is among those conquered by the fangs of Dang. Dang is an evil country far across the ocean, which first conquered the fabled Islands of Anniera in mid-ocean nine years before, and then soon afterward pushed all the way to the next continent and conquered Skree.  The fangs are lizardlike and also somewhat humanlike, with the remarkable ability to poison others with their saliva. So a bite from a fang is fatal.  It takes just a few fangs to keep the town of Glipwood in a state of grim overtaxation.

The fangs habitually kidnap children, and soon the Igiby children become targets. Their mother, Nia, buys their freedom with some fancy jewelry she has kept secret for years, and offers to make the local commander some maggotloaf regularly if he leaves Janner, Tink, and Leeli alone.

The higher-ups take a look at Nia’s jewelry and realize it came from Anniera.  They have been looking high and low for the Jewels of Anniera, and now they figure she must have them.  Things really heat up!  I won’t tell you what happens, but I will tell you that help comes from unexpected places after the family prays to the Maker.

What do I think?

This is a great tale told by a master storyteller. The most obvious feature is its humor.  The place names and the threats are shaped by a wit:  the toothy cows of Skree, the fangs of Dang, Anklejelly Manor, and on and on. Other features include page-turning intensity and well-drawn characters.  The fantasy world I found quite believable–except for the funny names.  There is nothing objectionable for a Christian family in this book, and in fact, it shows some of the Christian walk on the form of prayer and answered prayer.

In particular, I like the way the main characters don’t value material wealth. They value each other, period. Nia gives away her precious jewelry without a second thought.  At another point, Janner and Tink discover an armory of great value but don’t even think about helping themselves.

My only objection involves my particular sensibility. I have trouble aligning the humorous and therefore unbelievable names with the requirement to suspend my disbelief as I read the tale.  It’s a good thing Peterson is such a good storyteller. Otherwise my disbelief at the amusing names would have mired me down. – Phyllis Wheeler

This review is part of the Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour, looking at the Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson this week and particularly the second book in the series, just published. I’ll review it tomorrow.

Be sure to see what the others on the blog tour are saying:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Amy Browning
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Timothy Hicks
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Julie
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Dawn King
Rebecca LuElla Miller
New Authors Fellowship
Nissa
Donita K. Paul
Crista Richey
Chawna Schroeder
Andrea Schultz
James Somers
Steve and Andrew
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Fred Warren
Jason Waguespac
Phyllis Wheeler
Elizabeth Williams
KM Wilsher

Avatar, a Goddess Movie

The movie Avatar is setting some box office records. Since it’s fantasy/sci fi, my preferred genre, I decided to check it out.

Avatar is set at some time in the future, when humans have destroyed the green things on earth and are bent on spreading the destruction to a beautiful Eden-like planet, Pandora, six light-years away.  There’s a mineral there, “unobtanium” or something like that, which corporate greedsters will do anything to get. Unfortunately, the mineral underlies a major home base of the beings who inhabit Pandora.

The lead character, Jake Sully, is a marine confined to a wheelchair. He finds himself incorporated into a science experiment on Pandora where he guides a cloned Pandoran body from a special capsule. Although he has no ability to run in his regular body, he can command the cloned body as if it were his own. It’s the ultimate video game–he gets to become the character, at least as long as the character is awake.  I suppose this is the reason for the name of the movie. Avatar has come to mean “a computer user’s representation of himself,” according to Wikipedia.

As the story progresses, Jake’s alter ego learns the ways of the Pandorans. He falls in love.  He is supposed to be the intermediary between the colonialist humans and the Pandorans.  But the negotiations fail–the Pandorans don’t want to become anybody’s colony. Thanks to action on the part of the planet’s goddess, there is a happy ending, at the expense of the humans.

What do I think?

This movie promotes pantheism. The goddess Eywa is in everything and may respond to supplications, but she can’t be depended upon to take a moral position. She seeks balance, and may allow the bad guys their way for that reason.  She doesn’t seem to be a person, but more of a force. Actually, she seems to be The Force from Star Wars, renamed as feminine and re-cast in a gorgeous setting. I suppose she takes action here because her planet is threatened.

Clearly it isn’t a Christian movie.  So, should you let your kids see it?

Let’s compare it to the Harry Potter movies.  Many Christians objected to Harry Potter because there is sorcery involved.  The author, not a Christian, nevertheless creates a world where there are good wizards and evil wizards.  The good wizards struggle with the evil ones and eventually win. Can this be drawing our children into an acceptance of sorcery?  Could be, but I think most readers are able to see the moral tale. Of course, there is no personal God acting in the Harry Potter tales, so they are hardly uplifting.

Avatar however will tend to pull our children away from a moral way of seeing, toward a yin-yang mentality where good and evil are seen as two sides of the same coin, and the deity is in everything and inside us too. This balanced Eastern concept of God is entirely false, we know as Christians.  Where is the sinner in need of a savior?  Where is our holy God?

What’s particularly troubling is that, according to Becky Miller who did some research, there are some Christian bloggers who think this movie is Christian.  Are some in the church stepping onto the inviting slippery slope that Hollywood offers?

I would like to re-imagine this movie with Jehovah as the God who responds to supplications and saves the planet. He is holy and we are not. That would come out strongly. Through the work of Jesus, he has built a bridge to us. He hears our prayers. He acts. He heals. He guides. The resulting movie might be more like Raiders of the Lost Ark, or the Chronicles of Narnia.

Here’s my challenge to you, Christians in Hollywood:  create a new fantasy movie starring Jehovah. Thanks to the people who made Avatar, the tools are there to create a lush fantasy world that displays characters with human emotions.  Why not use this to tell the world about our loving, holy God?