CSFF Blog Tour Wrap – Beckon by Tom Pawlik

With school ending and summer creeping in, CSFF squeezed in a blog tour for Beckon by award-winning author Tom Pawlik. The modest tour for this adult speculative thriller included thirty-seven posts from twenty-five bloggers.

Those who posted all three days of the tour are eligible for the CSFF Top Tour Blogger Award for May. Below are the links to the articles of each participant up for the award.

So now the power shifts into the hands of the readers, and it is time to vote (just a little Survivor lingo there, for your entertainment. 😉 ) You have until midnight (Pacific time), Sunday June 10 to review the posts and make your decision.

And while you’re voting, why not click over to “Change and the Books You Read” and vote in that opinion poll as well. You’re participation in both these is greatly appreciated.

Published in: on May 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm  Comments (1)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 3

An interesting set of posts this month for the CSFF Blog Tour featuring Tom Pawlik’s newest adult speculative suspense, Beckon. There’s been discussion about the characters, Alzheimer disease, immortality, abortion (here on my blog), body count, arachnophobia, reading at night (or not), spelunking, and more. Without a doubt, this book made an impression!

The Story. Jack Kendrick wants to find out what happened to his missing archaeologist father so that he can rehabilitate his legacy. He finds a clue pointing to his dad’s last known destination, an Indian reservation in Wyoming. He talks his best friend Rudy into a road trip and heads west. They learn helpful information from an Indian legend and follow a guide into a cave that leads to a system of tunnels where they encounter horror and death.

Elina Gutierrez is a suspended LAPD cop. When she learns that her cousin is missing, she determines to do whatever it takes to find him. She knows she shouldn’t, but she sets up a one-officer stakeout and follows a van transporting immigrant workers to supposed out-of-state jobs. But rather than going to Nevada as they’d been told, the van leads her into Wyoming.

George Wilcox is at his wit’s end because his beloved wife is dying a horrible death–first losing her memories and her very personality. When he’s contacted by someone in Wyoming promising him a cure, he eagerly–though not without some skepticism–packs Miriam into the car and drives north. To the town of Beckon.

Yes, all three of these story threads weave together in the little backwater town whose nearest neighbors are the N’watu, the people of legend. Something deadly is going on in Beckon. Or is it something miraculous?

Strengths. Author Tom Pawlik is an outstanding writer. His descriptions are vivid, his story concept unique. He’s organized the book into four distinct sections, from three different points of view and in reverse chronological order. It’s not your everyday kind of book!

Mr. Pawlik has also created believable characters, each with a specific need that drives them to act. This in turn creates tension and pushes the story forward. Add in danger and suspense and the story becomes gripping.

As I alluded to in my first-day tour post, the story raises significant questions–ones I believe to be key in our present-day culture. Central is the matter of the value of life. Are there any “throw away” people?

In my mind, this issue of necessity includes life in the womb. Are these little lives less important than the big lives of those outside the womb? Is it moral to sacrifice those little lives for the betterment of big lives?

Mr. Pawlik doesn’t just raise questions–he gives faces, and storylines, to people on both sides. Suddenly the clear-cut answers seem a little murkier.

At this point one of the characters who is a Christian steps up and does something that gives some answers for anyone thinking about the issues. Note, this character does not preach a sermon or even argue the points. She simply does something consistent with the Bible without saying that’s what she’s doing.

Which actually brings me to the next part of the review.

Weaknesses. In many ways, the act of nobility I referred to in the last section would have been perfect as part of the climax. But the story continued for some time after this pivotal event. From my perspective, the big question was answered–whose worldview would win out? The events after that point, then, didn’t carry the same significance, I didn’t think. They were a bit of fluff, if you can call horrific events “fluff.”

The other area of weakness is one I share as a writer–not presenting characters in a way that allows readers to connect with them. Of course Beckon is not a character-driven novel, and readers were pulled along by the tension, the suspense, the conflict between good and evil even if they didn’t feel particularly attached to the characters. It was a thrill ride, an adventure. At times all you could do was hold on tight and see where you ended up.

But …

Part of me thinks the story would be that much stronger if the reader cared more deeply for these people. They seemed believable, surely. They had real wants, serious dilemmas, emotional and spiritual crises to go along with the physical disasters they faced. Readers should have loved them, cheered them on, cared deeply about their choices. If we had, this book would have raced to the top of the Best Book lists, I’m fairly confident.

Recommendation. I’m not inclined to read thriller type books, but after having read Vanish, Mr. Pawlik’s Christy Award winning debut novel, I knew I would read whatever he wrote. Beckon did not dissuade me from that position. Yes, there were horrific events, but there was also hope and help and sacrifice.

I highly recommend Beckon to adults who love the creepy, the bone-chilling, the fear-inspiring, and to readers who want to consider the issues of life and immortality. It’s a good story filled with tension and intrigue and packaged in a unique structure that enhances the reading experience.

Wrap. If you’d like to learn more about Tom Pawlik and his books, visit him at his blog, web site, on Facebook, or follow him on Twitter.

Watch for the tour wrap on Friday right here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. You’ll have a chance to vote for the May Top Tour Blogger.

And finally, the required disclaimer: in conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, which, I might add, in no way influenced my evaluation of it.

Published in: on May 23, 2012 at 6:03 pm  Comments Off on CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 3  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 2

Stephen King lite? Creepy suspense thriller? A story in the tradition of Tuck Everlasting? These and more are the things CSFF Blog Tour participants are saying about Beckon by Tom Pawlik.

But those aren’t quite all the same, are they. So who is right? Is the book too violent or only mildly gruesome?

This book offers a perfect example of how an author and his readers are working in tandem. The author has the responsibility of “speaking” clearly, and the reader then hears what he wants to hear.

Not that the reader intentionally distorts the author’s ideas or vision for his story, but each reader brings his own reading history, his own personal history, and his own set of beliefs to every piece of literature.

As a Christian who believes discernment involves seeing how things in our culture measure against Scripture, I approach what I read with an eye to truth, including spiritual truth. Someone else can pick up the same story with the intent to lose himself for a few hours in the adrenaline pumping thrills of a fast-paced adventure. What each of us “gets out” of the story, then, is bound to be affected by the expectations we brought with us when we turned to page one.

Someone who thinks that Beckon is a mild form of heavy-duty fear-inducing stories most likely has read a good number of Stephen King books, with perhaps a dose of Dean Koontz thrown in for good measure.

On the other hand, another reader more accustom to fairytale style fantasy might find Beckon a dark story filled with tension and suspense that never lets up.

For someone like me who doesn’t enjoy being scared, and thus who rarely reads stories with a high element of fright connected to them, Beckon pushes the envelop of the tolerable.

The point is this. When readers look for recommendations about books, it’s important for them to learn the bent of the individuals passing along their opinions. That’s not to say reviewers can’t be fair. But what frightens one may not frighten another. What touches one may repulse another. What keeps one turning pages as fast as can be might bore another.

It’s the rare book that can bridge the gap of people’s expectations and experiences and find a wide range of readers.

I commented in yesterday’s post that I wouldn’t call Beckon a horror story but that it had horrific moments which I was willing to tolerate. Someone else who loves fast action might tolerate the slower moments that established character. A third someone not interested in faith elements might tolerate the scenes that explore death and the morality of life everlasting.

A book like Beckon seems to be one of those bridge books–one that readers with varied expectations can enjoy. But don’t take my word for it. Read what others on the tour are saying. You can find links to specific articles at the bottom of the Day 1 post.

Before you go, though, take a moment if you would, to participate in a poll about the change in reading habits in the last few years: “Change and the Books You Read.”

Thanks bunches.

Published in: on May 22, 2012 at 5:39 pm  Comments (4)  
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CSFF Blog Tour – Beckon by Tom Pawlik, Day 1

I like books that make me think, and this month’s CSFF Blog Tour feature, Tom Pawlik’s recent release, Beckon, did just that. Yes, it was also a good story–especially entertaining for those who like a creepy thrills adventure. I wouldn’t say this book falls into the category of horror, but it has moments that are horrific.

Being as that’s not the type of book I enjoy, I tolerated those parts because there was enough going on that kept me engaged. But more about all that when I do my review later this week. For today I want to discuss an issue. I’m not saying it’s the issue Mr. Pawlik had in mind when he wrote the book, but it’s the issue that jumped out at me.

Unintentionally, to discuss this subject, I may give away plot elements, so consider this a Potential Spoilers Alert.

* * *

When I was growing up, my friends, parents, siblings, and, I’m sure, I as well, parroted an adage that held a lot of truth: two wrongs don’t make a right.

Intentionally or not, Beckon explores this pithy statement. If you can save someone’s life, is it still wrong to do wrong? Might it not be the case that my wrong can cancel out a greater wrong?

In tangent with this topic is the question, is one life more valuable than any other? Is someone who is without family and friends, who is adrift in the world, of less intrinsic value than a leader of a community, than an educated, productive, loved member of a family?

It’s so easy to say, of course, all life is equally valuable. But what if a homeless person had to die to save your wife? Your child? Is it so different from organ transplants if someone else’s “life energy” could provide healing and health to a dying loved one?

One step further, in my mind. Is it really true that all life is equally valuable if we use abortive tissue to develop cures for killer diseases?

Someone may argue that those babies were going to die anyway, so why shouldn’t their tissue be used for good, to save those who would die horrible deaths unless a cure is soon discovered for the disease from which they suffer. In fact, the use of those aborted babies’ tissue gives meaning to their deaths.

But using that same logic, why, then, don’t we “give meaning” to the homeless drifter and carve up his body, doling out his organs to keep “productive members of society” alive?

Society still gets irate at such a thought. Here in SoCal not long ago, a mentally ill homeless man was killed during a confrontation with law enforcement officers. What an uproar! And rightly so, if all life is equally valuable.

That man’s good should not be sacrificed for the sake of someone who happens to live in a house, drive a car, hold a job, and vote. A person is not better because he is better off. Rather, in God’s eyes, life is valuable. He created it. He formed each person in the womb.

It’s not OK for anyone to decide that the life in the womb is less valuable than the life outside the womb–that being too vulnerable to stand up for yourself, to live on your own, makes you less important.

Again, Western society seems to understand that. We go to great links to provide wheelchair access to public places and to give preferential parking to handicapped individuals. We celebrate remarkable feats such as a double limb amputee finishing a marathon or climbing a mountain or disabled individuals participating in the Paralympics. Their lives are valuable, our laws and outpouring of support seem to shout.

Why, then, do we tolerate taking a life to make someone else less burdened or embarrassed? Why do we fertilize eggs and then use the product–the person who results from that union–as nothing more than tissue to do with as we please?

Why aren’t those lives valuable, if, in fact, all life is of equal value?

And yes, Beckon made me think of this subject. What did others reading the story think about? You’ll need to take a look at the articles from the other tour participants (a check mark links to a tour article):

Published in: on May 21, 2012 at 3:30 pm  Comments (5)  
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