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Storytelling Well Done

T. C. Southwell, Children of Another God (The Broken World Series, Book 1) Smashwords, 2010 Format: ebook (97,613 words) Free

In order to research the genre of science fiction and fantasy novels in preparation for writing one myself, I’ve been reading the novels of others. This  book by T. C. Southwell is a good example of self-published sci-fi novels that are readily available today. Southwell has 31 novels available on Smashwords.com. They aren’t all free, but Children of Another God will give you an excellent sample of the genre. I recommend buying more if you like this volume.

Children of Another God tells the story of Chanter and Talsy. Chanter is a Mujar, a race of beings who can assume various forms, such as an eagle or horse, dolphin or human. A Mujar lives a hundred years exactly and cannot be killed for any reason, although they can be imprisoned in the Pits. Humans use and abuse Mujar for their own selfish or terrible ends, yet they hate Mujar because they have no emotional attachment to anyone or anything.

Talsy is an eighteen year old woman who desperately longs for adventure and freedom from the conventional human lot for women who are treated as little more than cattle. When her father captures Chanter and uses him for his own ends, then intends to imprison him in a Pit, Talsy rescues the Mujar. Then begins their complicated relationship which leads to surprising ends and to the potential salvation of the human race, which is not guaranteed by the end of the novel.

Southwell’s storytelling is well-done. The author’s considerable imagination concocts a world, or rather worlds, that reflect a dual judgment on humanity. People are truly evil but are capable of great good, and people can rise above their base nature with difficulty. One reviewer complained about Talsy’s deliberate endangerment of others by her actions, suggesting that this detracted from the story. For me, this was the heart of the story. Talsy represents those who want to be more but are bound to their debased humanity. It takes great effort for her to learn and rise above herself. Kudos to Southwell for telling such a story!

Another reviewer demurred the “blatant” Christian imagery. For me, the Christian character of this book was a pleasure. It was wonderful to see an author who used the Christian gospel as a tool to present the story of humanity and salvation without bludgeoning the reader with a gospel mace. The same reviewer felt that the picture of human beings as a pack of dogs was overdone. As a Christian, I felt Southwell did a tremendous job showing the reader how far the race of men can fall, how horrible its actions can be, when people operate on the level of the flesh alone. I suppose how a reader reacts to the Christian message behind the book depends on where he or she stands in relation to that faith.

All in all, if you want to read a valuable book, I recommend this one, but I add a couple of warnings. First, Southwell sometimes drags out an aspect of the characterization or plotting, and this can be a bit tedious. I prefer novels to make their point and move the action forward quickly, but that’s a personal preference. Second, Southwell spent too much time describing a gruesome dissection of the Mujar by men searching for knowledge but succumbing to brutality. The Mujar lived and survived with Talsy’s help, but the detail almost made me stop reading or skip ahead. An author should not do this to the readers. Yet, in the end, I admit the long scene was critical for the storyline. So, if you read it, persevere. You’ll be satisfied when you do.

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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Book Reviews

 

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What’s in a Thought?

Read Matthew 26:21-28, and you’ll notice an experience that makes discipleship hard. Jesus put an idea into his followers’ minds: “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me” (Mt. 26:21b, NIV). They each questioned whether they were personally guilty of this transgression. Jesus didn’t answer them directly. He only explained that the betrayer was one who ate with him, and they were all eating at that moment. He left them uncertain. Self-doubt can make discipleship difficult, but indecision about yourself is important.

Notice that Jesus himself put the doubt into their minds. He planted the thought which disturbed the already troubled people at the meal. Why would Jesus mess with their minds at such a crucial time? To prepare and equip them for what was coming. Such training by self-doubt makes discipleship hard. Indecision about yourself leads to growth.

Does your mind become a jumbled mess sometimes? Mine does. I fill it with too much. Appointments, details of church activities, sermon preparation, blogging, family concerns, ideas I want to write about or thoughts I’m working on. When I was going to a study conference once, my mother said to me, “Someday your head is going to bust!”

As you allow legitimate ideas to enter your mind, things you ought to think about, it isn’t long before somebody asks you to consider a new thing. You’re thoughts are influenced subtly by the media. Advertising is carefully aimed at you so that in the back of your mind you’re influenced to buy a particular product the next time you need a fast-acting pain reliever or a tasty soup or an entertaining song. What you read, see on a billboard, hear on the car radio becomes part of the content of your mind. Your subconscious thinks about it more than you realize.

In The Practice of Godliness, Jerry Bridges wrote, “Our minds are mental greenhouses where unlawful thoughts, once planted, are nurtured and watered before being transplanted into the real world of unlawful actions.”

Few crimes are committed without the criminal considering whether he might get away with it. Even crimes of passion have some basis in prior thought, vague imaginings or wishful ideas. As thoughts filter into you from the outside world, you pick up all sorts of good and bad notions. This is why careful analysis of what you read in a magazine or watch on your television is critical. Expose yourself too frequently to wrong notions, and you’ll eventually act on them. Witness the child pornographer or the adulterer, the thief or tax evader. Each has been shown in courts of law to have started their bad behavior with exposure to some media that shows or discusses the wrong activity in a tantalizing light. Fill you head with too much misbehavior, and you’ll misbehave.

Jesus spoke to Peter, who was urging him not to think of dying: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Mt. 16:23, NIV). In a sense, Peter was betraying Jesus as Judas later would, and as any disciple can. Doubt yourself, and grow in self-awareness.

What’s in a thought? The germ of a deed. Sooner or later you’ll act on a bad idea to which you become insensitive. You may begin by thinking lies are evil, yet train yourself to consider some lies to be permissible, and where will your deceptions stop? The reverse is true also. Flood your mind with wholesome and valuable and praiseworthy ideas, and you’ll work hard to produce the same kind of behavior. Yet this makes discipleship difficult.

What you put into your brain sooner or later leaks back out! A good disciple is very careful about this.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Behind the Bible...

 

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Beauty

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this about beauty: “Things are pretty, graceful, rich, elegant, handsome, but until they speak to the imagination, not yet beautiful. This is the reason why beauty is still escaping out of all analysis. It is not yet possessed, it cannot be handled. …It instantly deserts possession, and flies to an object in the horizon. If I could put my hand on the north star, would it be as beautiful? The sea is lovely, but when we bathe in it, the beauty forsakes all the near water. For the imagination and senses cannot be gratified at the same time.”

 

 

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