Halfway through: This is a terrible book and a waste of an otherwise intriguing premise. I’ve spent the last three weeks alternating between forcing myself to read it and avoiding it altogether. It could be another month before I finish, so hopefully it improves—but I wouldn’t put money on it. Full review to come whenever that happens. Current rating: 1.5 stars.
Two and a half months and 17 other, better, books later:
First, the good news: it gets better. Unfortunately, what I mean by that is that the last 50 pages actually engaged me. That’s honestly the most positive thing I can say about the book. I’m interested in what happens in the rest of the trilogy, but not enough to subject myself to actually reading it.
I could probably write a book about everything I hated about this book, but I’ll try to touch on just a few points. Overall, it’s a mediocre book with flat, idiotic characters with ridiculous names, terrible dialogue, a contrived plot, and unconvincing sermonizing. As a Christian and a reader, I’d feel insulted if I hadn’t stopped caring two months ago.
It’s insulting because Litfin apparently feels that the re-introduction of the Bible into a quasi-medieval future society isn’t interesting enough on its own terms. Rather, let’s not make the Bible forgotten, but surpressed. And by a state-sponsored religion (founded by a Frenchman) that embodies all the evils and degradations of humanity, no less. Oh, and did I mention that it’s run by Satan himself? It’s not explicitly stated, but it’s made blindingly obvious that the head god, Astrebril, is none other than Lucifer himself. The other Chiveisian gods are even less subtlely identified by their names: Pon (Pan), Vulkain (Vulcan), and Elzebul (Beelzebub). I mean, come on. To be fair, it could have worked well had the religion of Astrebril (with its prostitutes and orgies and celebrations of filth) been toned down and treated as a sinister background presence, only to be revealed for what they are toward book’s end. Instead, we get the true nature of Astrebril spoon-fed to us pretty much from the beginning, and the over-exaggerated cruelty of the religion and its priests hammered over our heads in a ham-fisted attempt to show us that, hey, these are the Bad Guys. Well, duh.
As repulsive as the gods are shown to be, few Chiveisians appear to have any qualms worshipping them, or taking part in their vile festivals. Except for those who will eventually become Christians, naturally. They all either hate or distrust or have no use for the gods from the beginning. Through an overly-convoluted series of events, part of a Bible is discovered, and all of these good people suddenly become a modern-day evangelical Protestant Bible study group by reading nothing more than Genesis and some of the Psalms. (Don’t even get me started on the painful “translations” of scripture into Chiveisian.) Can you see why I stopped taking any of this seriously? I swear I rolled my eyes at this book an order of magnitude more than any other I’ve ever read.
Looking back over the two paragraphs above, I feel like I’m being unduly petty and mean, but this is the reaction I have to the book. And so I won’t even get into the terrible characters, one specific example of faithlessness that drove me nuts, and the climactic confrontation at the end which seems to have been misinterpreted by everyone in the book. Instead, I’ll wrap things up and say that my rating stands at [1.5 out of 5 stars], and that I cannot in good conscience recommend this book to anybody.