CSFF Blog Tour – Captives by Jill Williamson, Day 1

CaptivesSafeLandscoverToday, 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.

The-Sword-coverAnother 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.

As usual, check marks indicate links to tour articles.

9 Comments

  1. Liked how you compared the different series. I’ve never heard of the Cheveis Trilogy by Bryan Litfin, I’ll have to check it out!

    • Thanks, Meagan. While I’m not a fan of the Cheveis Trilogy, I gave my ARCs to a friend who enjoys fantasy, and she really liked them. They are a quick read, with maybe a little bit of “superhero” flavor. All kinds of bad things happen, but somehow the hero does some remarkable (and impossible ;-) ) move to escape. This happens over and over, in a sort of Raiders of the Lost Ark fashion. It’s just not my favorite.

      Becky

  2. Thanks for the review, Becky. I enjoyed Captives, and The Sword, and liked your contrast of the two. Captives seemed more science-fictiony (is that a word?) of the two, while The Sword had more of a fantasy flavor. Both books tell a great story, and create an interesting landscape.

    • Timothy, I agree with your assessment. I liked Captives a lot more than The Sword, though being a fantasy person, I’d have thought it would be the opposite. But I thought Jill did a much better job in all facets of the story. Her world was richer, her characters more believable and clearly motivated, and the actions had consequences–no easy escapes. Still, I’m glad I read The Sword and the following two books. The concept was interesting.

      Becky

  3. Cannot wait to read it. I’m also writing a dystopian story for the Christian fic market.

    • Suzan, I didn’t know you wrote dystopian. By all means, do read Captives and the entire Safe Lands series.

      The one thing that threw me was that I expected “dystopian” right away but got something that felt more like medieval at the beginning. It changed fairly soon, however, but it did take me a moment to readjust my early expectations.

      Anyway, I’d be interested in knowing what you think when you get a chance to read it.

      Becky

  4. Gritty isn’t a modifier I’d use to describe the book. If Captives is ‘gritty’ to some, I must be very jaded. :/

    As always, thanks for hosting. My wrap-up won’t appear until late tomorrow evening.

    • Yes, Jessica, I agree with you. I’ve raged for years against Christians who say they write “edgy” fiction because that term communicates something not true when it’s stacked up with fiction as a whole. Same with gritty.

      What I said, however, was “Captives is perhaps a grittier novel than many from Christian publishers.” I’ll stand by that statement. Jill dealt more frankly with some issues that are normally glossed over or ignored. Overall, there was a darkness to the book that isn’t typical of “your grandma’s Christian fiction.”

      I think it’s important for readers to know this going in–especially if they’re not familiar with the dystopian genre.

      Becky

  5. […] start yesterday to the first of the August CSFF blog tours, this one featuring Captives by Jill Williamson. […]


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