A Fantastic and Fresh Take on Good vs Evil *****
This book reads like CS Lewis meets Jason Bourne. For the first few
chapters, you aren't sure what's going on - every time the main character
goes to sleep, he wakes up in another world and vice-versa. Both worlds
are real. And both worlds have loads of trouble for Thomas Hunter.
Both world's stories are compelling and, while not totally dependent on
each other, definitely have implications in the other world. Dekker does a
masterful job of creating 2 completely unique realities that are
completely believable. And since the story is told from Thomas'
perspective (for the most part), you really get to go on a wild ride.
Once I got about 1/2 way into "Black" - I was hooked. I think I read the
rest of the book (all three books are now in one volume) in a few days. I
couldn't put it down.
I loved the beautiful imagery of God's love and the use of water to
symbolize so many things. It's a wonderful, unique and compelling book
that I strongly recommend!
-Patricia A. Theriault "Trish"
Faulty plot plus bad theology equals mediocre tale **
The Circle Trilogy tells the story of Thomas Hunter, a man who enters an
alternate reality when he dreams. When he falls asleep in the other world,
he awakens back in ours. Both worlds are in danger; in our world a madman
releases a deadly virus called the Raison Strain (only he has the
antidote), and the world in Hunter's dreams is threatened by the Shataiki,
a bizarre race of evil bat-like creatures.
While the ingredients of a good story are here, Dekker doesn't assemble
them into a compelling yarn. He keeps the action flowing briskly, and his
style is descriptive without being a distraction, but the fantasy world of
Hunter's dreams is flat and dull compared with Middle Earth, Narnia, or
EarthSea. Only two cultures live there, and they both speak the same
language. The land itself is just generic forest and desert, with few
interesting creatures or plants that you can't find in our world. It never
feels like a real place.
Plot inconsistencies and weaknesses also undermine the story. For example,
the "other world" (which is never named) is portrayed as a future Earth
(our world is referred to as "Ancient Earth"), but as the trilogy begins
it seems to be in a pre-Fall state like the Garden of Eden. The part of
the story that takes place in our world has some irritating holes, too.
The entire conflict hinges on Thomas accidentally revealing to the bad
guys how they can mutate the Raison vaccine to create a deadly airborne
virus. He also tells them how to make the antidote. So why doesn't Tom
simply tell the good guys how to make the antidote, too? HE FORGETS!
Building an entire plot around such a contrived scenario is just lazy
In fact, Dekker can't make up his mind whether Thomas Hunter is a clueless
dolt or a super genius. Although Tom can't remember that splicing the
fifth and ninety-third genes in the Raison Strain makes an antidote to the
virus, he later memorizes the recipe for gunpowder (including how to find,
mine, and process the necessary ingredients), so he can make a batch big
enough to blow up a cliff -- all in one night, with no previous
experience! Later in the story, Thomas gains possession of an ancient
artifact that gives him the power to have any wish fulfilled. Does he use
it to incapacitate the bad guys or to discover the antidote to the Raison
Strain? No, for some reason those options don't occur to him. My vote:
To make matters worse, plot elements come and go at the author's whim. For
example, Dekker hints at a connection between a villain in the other world
and one in ours (he describes both as walking with a leg-dragging limp). I
kept waiting for some kind of payoff or revelation, but nothing ever comes
of it. It's as if the author simply forgot what he had written earlier.
When one of the ancient artifacts mentioned above - almost unlimited power
- falls into the hands of the bad guys, does Thomas mount a desperate and
daring attempt to retrieve it? Do the bad guys gloat over the perfect
weapon and try to use it for evil? Nope. Nothing happens. Literally,
NOTHING happens. Dekker even seems to lose interest in the villains; they
either disappear from the tale with no explanation or are quickly
dispatched without any final battle or confrontation.
On a deeper level, the Circle Trilogy is an allegory retelling the story
of God's redeeming love for sinful people, but despite some
powerfully-written passages, the book fails on the spiritual front, too. I
found Dekker's analogies fairly creative, and I applaud him for trying to
write a fantasy that is distinctly Christian, but his version of salvation
focuses solely on God's love with no sorrow or repentance for sin. In
fact, Thomas comes to know, love, and worship Elyon in the "other" world,
but this never seems to translate into a real-world faith in Christ.
Portraying God's love without His holiness is unbalanced at best and
idolatry at worst. Yes, God's love is deep and amazing, but painting Him
as "desperate" to win the love of sinners is borderline heresy. Since God
has absolute foreknowledge of the future, He isn't desperate about
anything. Sure, it's fine for Dekker to remind us that God is an emotional
Being, but His emotions do not control Him the way the author presents.
Initially, the cool premise of the Circle Trilogy pulled me in, but alas,
the tale unraveled as it went. Lacking a satisfying climax, and filled
with plot holes and poor theology, the Circle Trilogy rates a meager two
-G.T. Howell "neogalahad"