Today, over at Spec Faith, I started a series I’m calling Books I’m Excited About. I made Captives by Jill Williamson my first post. Here’s the bulk of that article, revised and reposted for tour enjoyment. You can also read my full review, posted here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction last April.
Captives is the first of The Safe Lands series, published by Zondervan and now part of their young adult imprint, Blink, launched last April.
It is a dystopian fantasy, a genre Christian publishers have only recently embraced. I realize that dystopian fiction in the general market is winding down, but the movies made from those books–starting with the Hunger Games–are just peaking, so I suspect the interest in the genre will continue for some time. In that respect, The Safe Lands is a timely series.
There’s also the Christian aspect of Williamson’s series. How does Christianity fit in with a dystopian world? The Left Behind books gave one answer. In some respects that series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye might be considered the forerunner or the catalyst for the recent apocalyptic and dystopian novels. They showed one interpretation of the Biblical record of the events leading up to the return of Christ and the end of the world as we know it. Because of their great success, it seems publishers woke up to the fact that people are interested in the future, dark as it might be.
Another series, sadly not of the “get excited” variety, which is a post-apocalyptic dystopian, though it reads much like a medieval story, is the Cheveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin (The Sword, The Gift, The Kingdom). Litfin’s handling of Christianity is distinctly different from Left Behind, and Captives is distinctly different from the Cheveis Trilogy.
It’s also different from, though with occasional similarities to, Swipe (Thomas Nelson), the middle grade series by the mysterious Evan Angler (Swipe, Sneak, Storm). Swipe, of course, has similarities with, but greater differences to, Left Behind.
In other words, how Christianity fits into a Christian dystopian fantasy is anything but pat. There is no one “right way,” no standard treatment, no prescribed formula.
Williamson has chosen to show Christianity primarily by way of contrast. It’s an intriguing and effective method, I think, which also rendered anything that might have been construed as preachiness, unnecessary. At the same time, I don’t think Christians will complain that the “faith element” is missing or obscure.
One thing readers should be aware of is that Captives is perhaps a grittier novel than many from Christian publishers. Besides making the story feel more real and relevant, however, the non-gratuitous grit served as the contrast that underwrote the theme. In other words, it was necessary and effective and in no way exploitive.
Readers should also be aware that Captives is the first part of a continuing story. I don’t know how many books are in the Safe Lands series, but it’s apparent that the story problem is resolved only in part at the end of this first installment. I thought it was a satisfying conclusion, though, not one of those contrived cliffhangers that seem to be somewhat in vogue these days.
In short, I’m excited about Captives. It is well written, Christian in an organic sense, filled with unexpected twists and lots of action, and peopled with interesting characters in a clearly drawn, futuristic world.
But compare my thoughts with what other participants on the CSFF Blog Tour have to say about the book.
√ √ √ Julie Bihn
√ √ √ Thomas Fletcher Booher
√ √ Keanan Brand
√ Beckie Burnham
√ Morgan L. Busse
√ √ Pauline Creeden
√ √ √ Emma or Audrey Engel
√ √ √ Timothy Hicks
√ √ √ Jason Joyner
√ Carol Keen
√ √ √ Shannon McDermott
√ √ √ √ Meagan @ Blooming with Books
√ Joan Nienhuis
√ Nathan Reimer
√ √ Chawna Schroeder
√ √ Jojo Sutis
√ √ Jessica Thomas
√ √ Steve Trower
√ Phyllis Wheeler
√ Rachel Wyant
As usual, check marks indicate links to tour articles.