Monday, June 14

A Christian's opinion of Dekker's Circle trilogy

Complete Circle Series: Hardcover Box Set

I finally finished reading Green, the last book in the four book trilogy (quartet?) by Ted Dekker. And wow, I did not like it at all. Spoilers abound in the following review.

Ted Dekker is a Christian author. The Circle trilogy is about a guy named Thomas Hunter who falls asleep in our world and wakes up in another world, a paradise where God ("Elyon") plays with sinless human beings as a little kid. Thomas gets to be the Adam who brings about the downfall of this paradise, by releasing the black bats, which are the epitome of evil.

At the same time, on our world, Thomas is the vessel for perfecting and releasing a killer virus that will wipe out everyone living. So Thomas jumps back and forth between worlds, trying to save them both. In the end he sort of does. At least, he stops the killer virus and goes to the other world to stay.

The story seemed finished, but Dekker apparently couldn't leave it alone, because along came Showdown.
Showdown (Paradise Series, Book 1) (The Books of History Chronicles)

The Circle trilogy introduced these things called the Books of the Histories, where if you write in them, whatever you write actually happens. Showdown, while gripping, disgusted me to the extreme, and I wouldn't recommend anybody reading it, unless they don't mind seeing children horrible mangled, abused, and killed.

Saint: A Paradise Novel (The Books of History Chronicles)

After that was Saint, an actual good book about an assassin guy with telekinetic powers. It, too, tied back into Showdown and the Circle.

Sinner: A Paradise Novel (The Books of History Chronicles)

The sequel to Saint was Sinner, an alarming book in which Christianity is outlawed in the United States, and the heroes of Showdown and Saint come together to do battle. It has a downer of an ending.

So, after slogging through all of this, along comes Green, the fourth book of the Circle "trilogy", attempting to wrap up the entire series. The series is riddled with plotholes and inconsistencies, and in my opinion it's because Dekker wrote them way too quickly, taking three or four months per book. That's definitely not enough for a second or third draft, and it shows.

Green opens up with Thomas again, who, since we last saw him, has become a spineless whiny wimp who doesn't have any more faith. The bad guys, who doubt Elyon and want to kill each other, are much more interesting than Thomas. Even Elyon isn't as interesting as the evil bats.

The villain from Showdown and Sinner reappears, and connects everything back to the beginning of Showdown. And he is much more interesting to read about than the good guys. A vampire chick shows up (she's somehow half bat), and she's also more interesting than the good guys. In the meantime, the good guys are weak, wavering, whiny and weepy, to the point that every time we jumped back to them, I groaned inwardly. "Not more of these saps! I wish the bad guys would just kill them off or something!"

The good guys never do grow spines. Elyon has to deus ex machina them to safety. The world ends with sort of a whimper, and even Armageddon just becomes tedious. I found myself skipping the slaughter scenes with characters I didn't care about.

Dekker keeps going back to the same cliches and retelling of Bible stories, so reading Green was akin to watching a Disney cartoon in which you know all the Disney cliches and can predict what is coming. "Oh boy, he's gonna kill the son like he did in the last two books ... LOOK! THE SON DIED!"

It doesn't help that Green opens with a retelling of Elijah on Mount Carmel. Which is automatically boring, because we know the story and we know what's going to happen. The main difference is that he also worked in Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, while removing the punch from both original stories and coating them in Boring. And we sit and watch Thomas cry about it all. Seriously. All the dude does is cry.

At the end of the long, tedious journey, we discover that Thomas is actually locked in a time loop, and gets to start all over again at the beginning of Black.

So you've actually read this entire series for nothing. Because nothing is resolved. And nothing will be resolved. Ever.

As a Christian, I see what Dekker is doing. He's trying to shock Christians by retelling familiar Bible stories in an unfamiliar way. He's trying to shock Christians by portraying evil as ugly and disgusting and in your face. And he does succeed at those.

What he fails at is making Good seem desirable. Sure, Elyon is all about love. But that doesn't mean much when the good guys are getting mindlessly slaughtered by the bad guys. There's no comfort, and redemption is something shoved down your throat instead of something coaxing and comforting.

I know that it's hard to tie up so many loose ends and write the end of the world. But if you're gonna end the world, man, END IT. Have the Earth explode and the stars fall and the sun go black. None of that happens. Know what happens at the end of the world in Green?

They all go swimming.

I'm not kidding.

Dekker's most effective stories in this series, so far, have been about a bad character who gets redeemed. Saint and White are about redemption of bad characters. But what Dekker seems to want to spend his time writing is about good characters who turn bad. And reading about these disgusting traitor characters for pages and pages and books and books is not entertaining. It's not even instructive. It's just loathsome. Kind of like trying to wash your hands in a sewer.

So yes, if you want entertainment, read the whole shebang. But stop at Sinner. Don't read Green. It doesn't solve anything at all.


Farm Girl said...

I have been looking forward to your review of Green. I am so glad you reviewed it so I won't ever have to read it. I think Ted Dekker needs to go on a long, long vacation. He has lost his vision I think, and I thought that after White, Black and Red. There is a lady in my sidebar who has a thing called book sneeze.
If you sign up and write book reviews on your site you can get the books for free. They are Christian books. I really enjoyed your book review and I would enjoy reading more of them. You are really insightful when it comes to seeing the allegory. I never can and then you can really put your thoughts nicely into words.
I said it before, but I really, really enjoyed this post.

Anonymous said...

I've never been able to get into Dekker, simply because I never could become attatched to his characters, and from what you say I'm glad I never did. What downer books. And what a downer end of the world too. Give me good ol' The Last Battle anyday for an epic end of the world. It surprises me that as a Christian (and probably a good Christian, not debating Mr. Dekker's faith) there isn't more joy in his books. After all, we of all people have the greatest reason for joy.

Kelty said...

Hey girl! Thanks for the review! I've always had complete trust in your book recommendations. :D

That's really too bad...we need more good Christian fiction these days. I haven't read much since I read Peretti in high school, and Angela Hunt (lovely guilty pleasure). But I'd like some Christian fiction of the ilk of C.S.Lewis (not too much to ask, right?). I read some Janette Oke, but her stuff always left a bad taste in my mouth by the end ("..then they all got saved and everything was perfect forever and ever!!").

NetRaptor said...

Kelty: Actually, as I was reading, I kept getting homesick for Testament, by Grisham. The main character in that gets saved really believably, and has very believable struggles with alcohol addiction. (Grisham does Stealth Christianity really well.) I don't read Christian authors very often because they annoy me. You could always give Karen Hancock a try. She annoyed me, but she's a halfway decent writer.

Silvertophat: You're right, there's not a lot of joy in his books. I think he must write in sort of a crazed frenzy.

Farmgirl: Well gee, I don't read enough new books to really write good reviews. I reread old books. But I'll try to oblige. :-)


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