Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein

Published by Ballantine, 1984.


Robert A. Heinlein knows his Bible. That much is clear. Strewn liberally throughout Job: A Comedy of Justice are biblical references and orthodox commentary, be it the quote which precedes every chapter (usually from Job) or in the mind and/or on the lips of our protagonist, Alexander Hergesheimer, a fundamental Christian minister who delivers the entire content of Job via first person. What comes to light however, by the latter half of this manuscript is that Hergesheimer’s worldview is not remotely shared by Heinlein. In fact it becomes quite clear that Job is simply Heinlein’s vehicle to mock the doctrines of evangelical Christianity. It is mystifying and somewhat unnerving to find one so knowledgable regarding biblical concepts – yet so callous and sarcastic towards the truths they portray.


I must confess, this book was well on its way to receiving 3 or 4 stars until it took a dramatic turn somewhere around page 325...which reminded me precisely of the experience I had reading Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land many years ago. What had been a gripping, whimsical adventure – actually a romantic love story – quickly entered the realm of the absurd, crossing the line of blasphemy numerous times. Heinlein depicts Heaven as an utterly confusing place filled with long lines of people desperately seeking straight answers from rude mannered angels. There is certainly no eternal bliss and no sign of Jesus anywhere. On the contrary, Hell, Alexander’s destination once he realizes his beloved Margrethe was not included in the rapture, is run very efficiently. Satan, pointy tail and all is easily accessible, and proves to be a rather reasonable creature willing to help Alex in his quest for his lost lover. Jehovah, as it turns out is not really the Eternal Father but rather on a par with his “brother” Satan, both subservient to some greater entity. Difficult concepts for one to swallow let alone stomach.


Had I not already invested much time and emotion in Job I might have put the book down right then and there, but I chose to suffer through to the bitter end when Alex finds his true heaven: eternal life with his beloved Marg in some artificial representation of Kansas. The not-so underlying message: human adulterous love wins out over perfect divine love. A dogma such as this causes me to fear for the eternal existence which Heinlein might be presently experiencing – a “justice” which has little resemblance to anything comedic.



A Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

Published by Scribner, 2012.


In order to earn five stars in this particular den of criticism, a work of fiction must boast three essential elements: A gripping, yet unpredictable story; multi-dimensional characters who unmercifully take your heart along on their own personal roller coaster ride of emotions; and beautiful image-evoking prose. A Light Between Oceans delivers on all counts -- stunning, considering it is Stedman’s first foray into novel writing.


Set on a tiny island off the west coast of Australia in the 1920s, Oceans actually begins with the singular event which provides the focal point of the plot, then reverts back in time to provide us ample historical context for our two main characters Tom and Isabela, then takes us beyond that eventful day and into the myriad of conflicts which occur in its wake, wrenching our hearts in the process like an old dish rag being wrung of excess water. Stedman then chooses to conclude the book with a scene which takes place in the relative distant future, a welcome balm of peacefulness -- now that she’s expertly ripped the very core of our souls to shreds.


The overarching question presented within the pages of Oceans is simply this: Does the seemingly unfair hand of cards life deals us justify actions and choices which clearly violate the laws of civilized society? Tom and Isabela Sherbourne have both been dealt some difficult hands. Tom, drafted as a young man into a war far from the culture he was raised in watches as the majority of his childhood friends fall prey to the harsh realities of human combat, resulting in a turmoil of nightmares and lifelong guilt for having survived. Isabela has one driving desire in life -- to be a mother. Yet the God she was raised to worship has not permitted any of her three pregnancies to come to fruition – the final indignity being an almost full-term stillborn baby.


So when a boat containing a dead man and a healthy three month old baby washes up on the shore of Janus Rock, the island where Tom maintains the lighthouse for years at a time and where the couple resides alone, is it an answer to years of prayer or just another cruel twist in the tragedy which undergirds their lives?


Though Tom has seen and experienced things no man ever should, he is still the voice of reason and common sense, and his first instinct is to report the incident at once to the proper authorities. Isabela, however, plays the role of an irrational tunnel-visioned woman, her breasts leaking milk at the very sight of the child. Conflict established. Tom’s desire to see his wife’s dreams realized ultimately wins out over his better judgment, and without a word to the outside world they keep and raise the child, Lucy, as their own, as if she were simply the miraculous result of her third pregnancy. Who will ever know?


As steadily as the pulsing beacon of the lighthouse turns, Stedman transports us to a place where you can almost hear the rhythm of the ocean waves crashing to the shore, breathe in the smell of the salty ocean air and the feel the shifting sand under Lucy Sherbourne’s little feet as she explores the only world she knows for three blissful years. In the process we are cleverly manipulated to think the happiness the Sherbournes finally experience can only be of God, as recompense for their past sufferings. This paradise however is rudely interrupted when the truth (as it always does) comes to light while the Sherbournes are briefly required to visit the mainland. Through coincidence or perhaps divine providence it is revealed that a man and his infant were lost at sea some years ago, and are survived by the mother, who has been living in torment ever since.


Ms. Stedman puts us through the royal wringer as Tom and Isabela struggle to reconcile their love for Lucy (and each other) with the knowledge that they have been living a lie. They cannot escape the reality that have stolen Lucy, actually Grace, from her real mother, who for the past three years against the advice of her closest friends and family has obsessively refused to let go of hope and prayer. To make matters worse, Lucy wants no part of her real mother – she is an evil stranger trying to rip her away from the only life she has ever known and loved.


Venture to a time and place you probably know little about, and prepare to get lost in this rich yarn of a tale which will probably find a home deep in the recesses of your mind and conscience forever. Don’t expect a neat and tidy resolution however. Only one mother can keep the baby.



The Mind Invaders by Dave Hunt

Published by The Berean Call, 2005.


Who would have known that one of Evangelical Christianity’s better known apologists could weave a web of fiction with the literary finesse of a bestselling novelist? Dave Hunt does just that with this, his debut novel. Hunt is keenly aware that at the foundation of all we know lies a spiritual conflict being waged between the forces of good and evil. Mind Invaders proposes that the main battleground for this war is the human mind. Demonic forces masquerade as alien beings from distant space in hopes of ultimately drawing men away from belief and reliance on God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life in the universe. The deception tugs at the very core of man’s sinful heart, where pride still sits on the throne.


Hunt’s books typically ooze biblical theology and scholarly research, but this time Dave lays aside his pedagogical hat in lieu of a creative one. The result? A fast-paced story boasting page-turning action, international political intrigue, groundbreaking science, mystery, and a tapestry of complex interpersonal human relationships that has the reader not only caring deeply for the welfare of its protagonists, but also yearning for justice to be meted out to those deserving it.


Undergirding the plot of The Mind Invaders of course are Hunt’s orthodox Christian beliefs and values, and a clear presentation of the biblical gospel, which can rescue any man from the clutches of the spiritual forces of evil, provided he is humbled enough to willingly lay hold of it. Such a transformation occurs in the mind of Ken Inman, Hunt's main character. Though indwelt by demonic spirits early on in the story, the skeptical Inman comes to recognize the futility of trusting in man’s overrated intelligence and abilities.


A satisfying and pleasurable read from cover to cover, one can only hope Mr. Hunt has at least one more work of fiction in him before the Lord calls him home!



Spurgeon vs. Hyper Calvinism by Iain H. Murray

Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1995.


An eye opener. Many Calvinists like to think Charles Spurgeon was a champion of their so-called “doctrines of grace” (deceitfully called such, as though any other theological system does not acknowledge the wonder of God’s grace), however, the many sermons and letters referenced in this short volume tell a different story.


Surprisingly, Spurgeon, the consummate evangelist, was looked down upon in his day by his contemporary Calvinists for “heretically” preaching the universal call to obey the gospel and the responsibility of the sinner to believe it’s truths. Not budging in his position however, the “prince of preachers” eloquently defends the biblical truth that the onus for obtaining God’s offer of salvation is on the unconverted sinner.


From his sermon, “The Warrant of Faith,” expositing the text of 1 John 3:23, Spurgeon says, “In our own day certain preachers assure us that a man must be regenerated before we may bid him believe in Jesus Christ; some degree of a work of grace in the heart being, in their judgment, the only warrant to takes away a gospel for sinners and offers us a gospel for saints.”


Such lucid arguments pepper this well focussed essay by Iain H. Murray, inevitably pointing to the conclusion that Charles Spurgeon was no more a Calvinist than Charles Wesley.



Lydia by Lois T. Henderson

Published by Christian Herald Books, 1979.


This short, easy to read novelization of the account of Paul, Luke and Silas traveling through Phillipi and their encounter with the woman named Lydia (as it appears in Acts chapter 16:16-31) may be brief, but it is nonetheless chock full of drama, emotion, action, and descriptive historical imagery of first century life in southern Asia. Ms. Henderson biblically portrays the conversion of this widowed “seller of purple”, though along the way she takes a healthy amount of creative license in order to weave a story worthy of novelization out of a somewhat vague episode of Scripture.


Henderson gets it right: Lydia, like Cornelius was a “worshipper of God” prior to her encounter with Paul, although Paul’s teaching did “open her eyes” to spiritual truth she did not yet comprehend, namely that Jesus Christ was the man who fulfilled God’s promise to the world for a Messiah according to the Jewish scriptures.


A wonderful surprise is the fictitious sidebar of Lydia’s son “Ditus”, who at the outset of the story finds the things of God “foolishness”, but who ultimiately becomes one of Paul’s most trusted helpers in the spread of the gospel, Epaphroditus (Phil. 2 & 4). Henderson also skillfully incorporates the characters of the Philippian jailer and the possessed slave girl into the story to round out this heart-warming, God-glorifying tale.



Star Trek:The Eugenics Wars: The Rise & Fall of Khan Noonien Singh

By Greg Cox


Lengthy but never tedious, this tale told in two volumes is sweet nectar to the thirsty trekkie who can’t get enough from 79 episodes and 7 feature films. Via a refreshingly descriptive and witty writing style, Cox has cleverly woven a near-epic tale that draws liberally from the character well of Star Trek lore, specifically two unrelated original episodes.


First of course is the central figure of Khan, Kirk’s arch nemesis (masterfully played by Ricardo Montalban, first in the episode “Space Seed” then again in the movie “The Wrath of Khan”). Cox answers all of those nagging questions and then some regarding Khan’s genetically enhanced upbringing, rise to power, and subsequent exile from planet Earth. Second, and threatening to steal the show is the likable Roberta Lincoln (originally played by Terri Garr in the episode “Assignment: Earth”). As a native Terran, Miss Lincoln has been drafted into service by Gary Seven and the mysterious alien race The Aegis, to keep humanity from destroying itself before reaching the 23rd century (otherwise, Star Trek as we know it could never happen!). In the course of 800 some odd pages, Seven and the mild mannered Lincoln repeatedly cheat death and in the process, covertly rub elbows with the likes of Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan while assuming any number of pseudonyms and disguises.


And oh yes, there’s a parallel 23rd century “subplot” starring our favorite multi-racial band of Enterprise crewmen to break up the action every 10 chapters or so.



The Visitation By Frank Peretti

Published by Thomas Nelson, 1999.


What endeared me the most to this book was the story beneath the story. At the outset, our main character Travis is a middle-aged but surprisingly retired minister...and it takes a large helping of this book via flashback to see why this once on-fire servant of God has become somewhat burnt-out and disillusioned with Christianity. Peretti adeptly realizes that underneath it all there’s a little Travis in all of us, so it’s easy to relate. This one had my interest throughout, but wasn’t quite the page turner of some of Peretti’s earlier books. Odd occurences, miraculous healings, and a demonic twist make The Visitation vintage Peretti, and before the book ends you know that good will have to confront evil. Who will win??????



11/22/63  By Stephen King

Published by Simon and Schuster, 2011.


Like most Stephen King novels, this book is a brick and somewhat tedious to curl up with on the sofa. Nonetheless, 11/22/63 reminds us why King is the celebrated author he is.


King has spun a rich yarn, which on the surface may be a riveting page-turner about the assasination of JFK, but as the plot plays out touches deeper, more poignant themes regarding human relationships.


King’s first person writing style powerfully draws us into the life of Jake Epping, a mild mannered high school english teacher, who embarks on a life altering adventure across the threads of time and takes us along for the ride. For baby boomers in the audience the ride is especially nostalgic as it becomes a sort of trip down memory lane, reliving Americana of the 50s and 60s – a world in which no one would ever dream of flying a plane into an ocean much less a building. King’s references to a host of popular TV commercials, movies, news and sporting events from yesteryear provide a rich backdrop for the story at hand: what if a portal to the past is discovered -- could one prevent horrific events in history without altering the future too significantly? There is frequent discussion of the “butterfly effect” popular in most science fiction time-travel narratives.


Choosing to focus on perhaps the most infamous event of the late 20th century, the assassination of JFK, King teaches us much about alleged killer Lee Harvey Oswald’s past and the various “political ideals” which led him to shoot JFK from the Dallas Texas Schoolbook Depository in November of 1963. The possibilities of conspiracy theories are alluded to but for all intents and purposes King writes under the premise that Oswald acted alone. While perhaps necessary to plot evolution, I nonetheless found myself dreading these passages in lieu of chapters which deal more with the relationship Jake is cultivating with small town school librarian Sadie Dunhill. Though in reality they were born 30 years apart, theirs is a romance that seems to have been destined from eternity past. And that is the very issue which undergirds 11/22/ anything really “meant to be?” King’s answer seems to be summed up in the recurring phrase, “the past is obdurate” -- that it doesn’t want to be changed, and will fight you as though it were a living, breathing entity defending its integrity. King has us rooting for this unlikely romance but somehow we get the feeling that when the final page is turned, things will not necessarily end up as we would like or expect...
















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