The Fall of Five by Pittacus Lore

FallA disappointing book that had the potential to be entertaining but for the most part falls short. Apart from the opening and last few chapters, most of this book seemed like it was merely killing time, packing out a story to make it last for an unspecified number of additional sequels.

I think that view is borne out by its “cliff-hanger “ending, leaving readers with the option of buying the next instalment (whenever it’s released) or abandoning the series altogether, which gets more tempting the longer the series is stretched out.

There are few surprises in the book. Maybe the biggest is the fact that the story abruptly ends almost 50 pages before the book runs out; and the added pages are filled with chapters of “Lost Files” , DVD-like extra features, pseudo-deleted scenes that add a little back (or side) story to the series.

Strangely the most significant potential surprise comes near the end of the book and yet its effect has been deflated long before it is revealed – broadcast so loudly ahead of time that the only surprise is how obvious it had been made.

But what is the book about?

Superhero-like alien teenagers, sent to safety on earth, escaping from the genocidal, invading race that has destroyed their own planet, now find they are the only hope that earth has to be saved from a similar fate.

This is the fourth book in the series. But how many more to come?

Juliet Naked by Nick Hornby

Duncan’s life is centred on his obsession with musician Tucker Crowe. His idea of a good holiday is a pilgrimage visiting sites of “relevance” to Crowe’s career.

Juliet is Crowe’s most successful album, after which he disappeared into anonymity, until the internet gave a platform for a few widespread fans to air their views on his career and to spread theories about his current situation and whereabouts.

A recording of demo tapes made before the hard production work turned Juliet into a more polished and commercial product is released with the title Juliet Naked, and the internet discussion spurred by the album changes relationships, breaking some and creating new ones. The obsession that has given Duncan a sense of purpose for decades eventually brings to an end the certainty and security that he’s taken for granted.

I can partly recognise in Duncan a more extreme example of my younger self and how deeply I could get caught up with a favoured singer or group. How in my early teens I would continually switch radio stations, trying to hear Suzi Quatro’s 48 Crash again and again. Or how, almost two decades later, I’d listen to Roaring Jack’s Cat Among the Pigeons at least once every day; and drive a 160km round trip every Thursday night to see them perform at a Newtown pub.

But one aspect of the book portrays a reality far different to my own attitudes: an aspect that depicts today’s society and human relationships in a not too flattering light.

While Juliet Naked is not the risqué book that the title might suggest, part of the book does portray a very casual attitude to sex, as if it’s merely a form of recreation or entertainment, like going out for a drink or a meal. Just another form of personal gratification devoid of love or commitment or even the thought of shared experience. Potential sexual partners are seen as a means to a personal end

In this I see a sad symptom of the shallowness of an “it’s all about me” society where individuals feel it unnecessary to look beyond themselves and their own “needs”.

Prophetess by Keven Newsome

prophetessProphetess is the follow-up to Keven Newsome’s Winter, a book I reviewed here on my older blog:
A lot of what I wrote there could also apply to Prophetess so I recommend a look at that earlier review.

The prophetess is Winter, the title character of the earlier novel and we meet her again as she’s returning to school for another year after she and her friends survived some horrific events the year before.

At first I found myself getting a little lost at the beginning because of a few references to characters and events I’d forgotten from the earlier book, but that initial feeling of disorientation comes with many novels that are released as a series and it would have easily been avoided if I’d chosen to reread Winter before I moved on to Prophetess. Once I’d moved past that I was soon hooked by the story.

Or maybe I should say stories, because there are two main time-lines describing different periods of Winter’s life. There is the present story where Winter tries to find and protect a fellow student who is being targeted by Xaphan the occultist adversary from the earlier book. And there is also the story of a slightly younger Winter, withdrawn into a state of depression after the death of her mother. These story threads are interwoven leaving us with mini cliff-hangers as they switch from one to the other.

With Winter I had reservations about the portrayal of prophecy and I’m not convinced that it fits a biblical view in either book, but that’s something I addressed in my earlier article and the author of the book responded with comments to give his position so I won’t cover that ground again. So putting aside that theological issue, I found the book ticked a lot of entertainment boxes without pushing God to the side.

Both Winter and Prophetess are a blend of suspense and supernatural thriller with a seasoning of horror, touching on some serious issues, like the consequences of dabbling in the occult, teen depression and the real freedom that a relationship with God can bring.

I think this is the first Christian novel I’ve read this year. If I could find more of a similar quality I’d be very happy to read more. I think it’s the equal of a lot of popular fiction, but has the added quality of taking God seriously.