CSFF Blog Tour, Day 2 – A Review of Vanish

Vanish coverVanish, the June CSFF Blog Tour feature written by Tom Pawlik, is an adult supernatural suspense novel. Those of you who hang around here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction are probably rolling your eyes. (I need to come up with some short, snappy way of referring to this little blog. ACWoF just doesn’t do anything for me) Why the eye roll? others may wonder. Because I’ve said often enough, supernatural suspense is not my genre of choice. Yet I end up reading far more of it than I care to because it’s lumped in with fantasy in the “speculative” category.

Except, this time, I am happy my involvement in CSFF spurred me to read Vanish.

The Story. I can’t tell you much. 8) Even giving you the genre feels like I’m spoiling the story. This is one you need to experience sans spoilers. If you haven’t read Vanish yet and plan to take a peek at other CSFF posts, STOP READING IMMEDIATELY if you see a spoiler alert. Too much information will indeed ruin this story. I say this knowing full well that tomorrow I plan to discuss something important that Vanish has made me think about, and of necessity I’ll give spoilers. You are warned!

So what can I tell you? The main character Conner Hayden experiences the strange sensation that he’s being watched, until one evening when he sees an odd storm cloud, then passes out … or goes to sleep. He doesn’t really know. But when he awakens, everyone he knows is gone. No cars on the road. No one answering the phone. Only static on the radio. No TV reception. Stores are empty.

The story, then, is about Conner trying to figure out What Has Happened, and about how What Has Happened affects him.

Strengths. Intrigue! Intrigue! Intrigue! And Suspense in equal measure. Yes, Tom really has written a story that will have you guessing and wondering and worrying and fearing. And maybe in the end, hoping.

I hesitate to say this, but I think this book could be classified accurately as Christian horror. I have to think that one of Tom’s intentions was to scare people. And notice, I put this down as a strength. Hmmm.

At the same time, this is not a blood-bath kind of book. The real fear is generated by the unknown. I think Tom did an outstanding job feeding just a bit of information at a time, gradually increasing the fear factor.

Weaknesses. I didn’t feel a strong connection with Conner at first. So when things started to happen, I didn’t care deeply. Later I came to care, but I think the story would have more impact if I cared more deeply. If the sequel, Valley of the Shadow (which couldn’t have a more distinct cover from Vanish), is the story I think it is, then I’ll already have a connection to the character.

There’s also a theological issue that comes into play. It’s one of those tough things to sort through when writing Christian speculative fiction. How much must we pay attention to theology if we are using our imagination? I’ve said before, when we write about what is real, even if it is real in the spiritual world or in Biblical history, we are obligated to stay within the bounds of that which has been revealed. Within those bounds, I think we can speculate. (For example, a story about angels must be true to what the Bible says about angels, but a lot has been left unsaid, so I think we can speculate as long as we aren’t contradicting what the Bible says).

As I think about Vanish, I’d say there is a theological problem towards the end, but I didn’t find it off-putting or utterly misleading. Am I splitting hairs to say this is a problem? Maybe.

One of my favorite books is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, yet many Christians clack their tongue at such a work that seems to suggest man gets a second chance at heaven after he dies. Well, I don’t think that’s what Lewis was saying in The Great Divorce. My theological criticism of Vanish may be as empty for the same reason.

You can be the judge tomorrow, because that issue will be in the forefront of my post.

Recommendation. For those who love suspense and especially supernatural suspense, this is a must read. For anyone who likes a captivating story, I highly recommend Vanish.

Don’t forget to check out the other bloggers (listed below my interview with Tom) posting about this book. I particularly recommend Phyllis Wheeler’s review and possibly the best ever introduction by someone who hasn’t yet read the book posted by Fred Warren.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 12:27 pm  Comments (9)  
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9 Comments

  1. Great review as always, Becky. I think there’s so much that we don’t know–our lives being a milli-second in time to a God who is outside of time (if you will) that speculating or fictionalizing a world where people haven’t completely passed to the other side is thought provoking, if only in the message that we all must go somewhere when we die. Where will you go? (Not you personally, but regarding the message)

    I have no clue what i just said. 🙂

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  2. Hey Becky, thanks for stopping by at my blog for the CSFF tour. As usual, your review is excellent. Way to go girl. Hope I get some traffic from some of the other CSFF buddies. I’ll check out their reviews too.
    Janey — orphansfirst. org / JaneyDeMeo.com

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  3. I’m with you on the notion that we should keep within the bounds of what is known to be true, and then speculate only within those bounds. That’s something I’m endeavoring to do with my fantasy novels, but there have been some preliminary readers who seem to expect straight theology first rather than story first. I pretty much figure that I’ll never please them; meantime, I’ll do what I can to make sure I don’t misrepresent God in my efforts to tell a story.

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  4. […] Miller’s post from yesterday addresses some of these concerns: There’s also a theological issue that comes into play. It’s […]

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  5. Of course it’s horror. But it’s good horror. (“Good Horror! Good Horror! Roll over, and I’ll rub your tummy!”) It isn’t gory, and I at least had no nightmares, despite staying up late with it onece. And there is a theological issue; I’ll have to check yours against mine. But all in all, it’s a good story.

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  6. I haven’t had the chance to read the novel for I did not receive a copy of this. But it looks incredibly intriguing, especially the sections, detailing the warfare between demonic forces and us. So possibly, this one may be added to my Amazon shopping list sometime in the next week.

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  7. Justin, sorry to hear your book didn’t arrive. It’s not exactly about spiritual warfare … If you read my post today, you’ll know.

    Becky

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  8. Great discussion, all. Thanks for your comments. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts. My understanding of these CSFF books always expands as I see what you all have to say.

    Becky

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