Shade – November CSFF Tour, Day 2

john-b-olson-tinyThe CSFF Blog Tour feature, Shade (B&H Publishing), “isn’t your grandma’s prairie romance,” according to author John Olson in an interview over at Title Trakk earlier this year.

Dr. Olson goes on to say:

There’s more going on beneath the surface than even the most brilliant reader will be able to pick up on, and it could very well be frustrating to readers who are used to having their stories served to them in nice bite-sized chunks. I’m not just nervous about it’s release; I’m chew-my-fingernails-up-to-my-elbows terrified.

So what, I can’t help wondering, did I miss? I surmise that there are undercurrents swirling around the villain—called Mulo (vampire) yet taking the form of a man named Sabazios Vladu. The first name is the same as a Phrygian sky father god.

That would tie in with one of the other characters who goes by Athena, though her real name is Athalia, closely related to Athaliah, an exceedingly wicked queen of Judah (daughter of Ahab, she had all of her grandsons killed so she could take the throne—except one escaped, a boy named Joash).

Then we have Melchi, short for Melchizedek, a type of Christ because he was the prophet/priest/king Abraham encountered, which the writer of the book of Hebrews explained. Or what about Hailey Maniates? Her last name is the same as a group of Greeks known as fearless warriors. A number of historical and mythical stories are connected to them.

And that’s just the names of the main players. There are some occasional characters that have obvious import that has yet to be developed such as Blaise (a reference to Saint Blaise?) with the rainbow mohawk hair (rainbow hair? The John 3:16 guy who used to hold up signs at football games?)

There are also the intriguing epigraphs from Milton and Bram Stoker, the passages from Paradise Lost with Melchi’s notes, and the list of authors Sabazios revered.

Tip of the iceberg, I suspect, given what Dr. Olson said about the work. I can’t help but wonder if having so many subtle or obscure references adds to a work. Some, to be sure, made me wonder. Why, for instance, was the main character named after a figure who was a type of Christ? It was interesting that he seemed to have an Old Testament faith until near the end and that he was willing to make a sacrifice for someone he loved.

But do those things cause me to care about the character more? And isn’t that essential for a story to really grab a reader and stay with him?

OK, tomorrow my review. But what did everyone else think? Check out the posts by these CSFF participants:

Brandon Barr
Jennifer Bogart
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
√√ Kathy Brasby
√√ Valerie Comer
Karri Compton (not on the original list posted at CSFF)
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson (not on the original list posted at CSFF)
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Todd Michael Greene
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Jason Isbell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen (not on the original list posted at CSFF)
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear (not on the original list posted at CSFF)
Melissa Meeks
Pam Morrisson (not on the original list posted at CSFF)
Eve Nielsen
√√ John W. Otte
Steve Rice
√√ Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise

“√” indicates I know a blog post is up.

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 2:26 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , , ,


  1. It’s true sometimes that an author can put too much inner meaning into the story. They enjoy it, but the reader feels lost.

    A reader needs to be led to understand hidden meanings, when this doesn’t happen, they become frustrated.

    I can relate to this issue on both sides, as a writer trying to insert too much meaning into a short story (which never was published), and as a reader slightly annoyed because he can’t possibly gather everything coded in the text.


  2. You’re so good Becky! I never picked up on all of the names except for Melchi’s. I did notice that Olson didn’t tie everything up and left a lot unsaid in his novel, but I still enjoyed it. I don’t feel that it’s fair of an author to dangle too much deeply hidden meaning, if no one except the author can find it, what good is it? A thoughtful read is always fun, but the answers should be available for finding with a reasonable degree of perception.


  3. Brandon, I know what you mean. When I first started writing The Lore of Efrathah, I didn’t have any idea if readers would think the symbolism so obvious they wanted to be sick or so obscure they wouldn’t see it at all. It’s not an easy thing.

    What I found interesting was Dr. Olson’s admission that there were undercurrents even careful readers wouldn’t see. I didn’t mention many of the literary references—a Wordsworth poem, for example. It seems a little James Joycian to me—like we should have a page of footnotes for every page of text. Unlike Joyce, however, Shade was an entertaining and cogent story without all the obscure references.



  4. Jennifer, I have to admit, I only looked into the meanings of the names after I read that interview with John over at TitleTrakk. I knew Melchi was more, so I suspected the others might be too. I was actually surprised at the exten.

    A thoughtful read is always fun, but the answers should be available for finding with a reasonable degree of perception. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve said before that I think the best reading requires a little mining for the gold of truth hidden below the surface, but I think that mining should come from contemplation and perhaps an awareness of an average body of knowledge (something harder and harder to come by, I realize). Many classic writers used a lot of Biblical references, for instance, because the Bible was widely known in their day. Today, references to Biblical accounts might actually seem obscure to a secular audience, but less so to a Christian one. All that to say, I don’t think it’s easy to figure out how much or how little to bury for the thoughtful reader to uncover, but I think there needs to be some solid evidence that some digging will uncover something of value, or no one will be looking.



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