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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"Green" by Ted Dekker [Book Review]

This review is for those who LIKE extra details and a longer review. If you are someone who does NOT like spoilers and just wants to know the basics and opinion so as not to ruin any surprises, please click HERE for a shorter review.
I am a person who likes longer and deeper reviews better so I decided to post both a shorter spoiler-free version, and also a seprate longer review for those like me who enjoy knowing more than usual about a movie or book before delving in. ;) So here's your extra juicy double cream filled review for my kindred spirits out there! ;)

This is the Publisher's Summary of Green:
At Last . . . The Circle Reborn
The story of how Thomas Hunter first entered the Black Forest and forever changed our history began at a time when armies were gathered for a final battle in the valley of Migdon. Green is a story of love, betrayal, and sweeping reversals set within the apocalypse. It is the beginning: the truth behind a saga that has captured the imagination of more than a million readers with the Books of History Chronicles.
But even more, Green brings full meaning to the Circle Series as a whole, reading as both prequel to Black and sequel to White, completing a full circle. This is Book Zero, the Circle Reborn, both the beginning and the end. The preferred starting point for new readers . . . and the perfect climax for the countless fans who’ve experienced Black, Red, and White.

"Green" was my first review ever for Thomas Nelson Publishing. They actually sent me the book about 3 months ago and it's taken me this long to read it (for which I do feel bad!) Let me back up a bit...

I love to read. I love love love fiction. SciFi is awesomely awesome. I DEVOUR books. I read Frank Peretti's "The Oath" (a seriously big fat piece of Christian SciFi genius for those who don't know) in about a week - when I was 16 or 17 years old. I can read a regular paperback novel in a few hours if it's the weekend when Dada can be the kids' go-to man so Mama can get some reading done. ;) So for it to take me longer than a day or two, a week tops, to read a book... well it means it was a super busy time for me (when ISN'T it now that I have kids though) or I was not able to "get into" the book. Such was part of the case with "Green." Which brings me to my review:

"Green" is advertised as being both the beginning and the end, functioning as both a prequel and a finale to Dekker's "Black," "Red," and "White" books. So when I began reading it, having never read any of the other three before, I went into it expecting that it would indeed work as a prequel as promised. It did not. I was lost for the first 1/3 of the book and am even still confused on alot of points. Advertising this book as being one you could either begin or end the series with, was in my opinion, a mistake. Having begun with this book I now have zero desire to try on "Black," "Red," or "White." It's extremely difficult to stay interested in a book when it leaves you confused far into the book. There has to be the right balance of mystery and revelation and, while it may have had the right balance for a finale, "Green" tipped the scales into frustration as a prequel.

The time-travelling "Thomas of Hunter" is eluded to being the hero of "Black," "Red," and "White" but in "Green" he comes across as flighty, easily shaken, and confused, with a bit of a bad temper. It is not explained why he is this way if he is the leader of the good guys. It seems to me that someone who is portrayed as a prophet of God would have a faith that is more like a longterm believer would have than the way he comes across as an infant in the faith. This confused me as the book insinuated that Thomas was the great leader and having been fighting this battle in two worlds for most of his life. To see him acting like a brand new believer while being treated like a seasoned warrior was confusing.
(*Spoilers ahead*)
Billy/Ba'al/Bill is another character that makes me wrinkle my forehead, along with his counterpart Janae. It seems like this Billy fellow just decided to be evil out of the blue. Now I don't know the real rest of the story from the "Black," "Red," and "White" books, just what it made it seem like in this one book. And how is he both Billy in the "present" and Ba'al in the parallel-future (or whatever it is) but then he's more like two beings in one body when he visits the future, and then later two seprate beings in the same timeline who are the same only somehow are two different people? The book never really explained this. I think Bill is supposed to represent the antichrist. And Janae is the daughter of a half-demon thing and a human from present day. Or something. Yeah I just about went cross-eyed reading that back to myself so don't feel bad if you don't get it: me either!

To be honest I felt like the plot was missing some large important chunks that would have fleshed out the story and made it understandable and enjoyable. I imagine those tidbits would be found in "Black," "Red," and "White." Now to be clear, "Green" was not a slow book. The story was definately happening. It was that as a reader new to the series, I was bogged down by not understanding what was going on for most of the book, which made it painfully boring and difficult to read. I may have found this tolerable if it hadn't been for the fact that the spiritual elements were disturbing and misleading, but more on this later.
The jist of the plot is that Thomas is living happily ever after in the "future" (in which spiritual things are more visible and culture is quite primitive) hiding away with his merry band of "Albinos" when all of a sudden things go teribly wrong. Thomas' son turns on the faith, calls himself a prophet, and tries (disturbingly successfully) to take the entire band of Albinos down that road with him. He hooks up with Janae who promises to deliver their unsaved counterparts (crudely referred to as "scabs") into their hands to be mercilessly slaughtered by way of a virus from the advanced civilizations of the past- that would be us here in present day. Meanwhile Thomas is not there to help his out of control adult son, he's instead trapped back in history here with us in present day. After alot of swapping centuries, deception, and disturbing descriptions of occultic rituals, it's the end of time and Thomas' son didn't make it to the other side. Thomas begs to be allowed to go back in time and try to save his son. "Elyon" agrees on one condition; Thomas will be starting over with no memories of his previous ending. And so the story begins again where it apparently began the first time in the "Black," "Red," and "White" books.

I found alot of the spiritual and moral elements in this book to be misleading and disturbing.
The character "Teeleh" seems to be representative of Satan. The head demons are referred to as "queens" and the rest are "shataiki" which are in the form of black bats.
Angels are portrayed as cute fuzzy little white bats called "roush." I was kind of offended at this since the Bible describes angels as giant fearsome warriors. The roush in "Green" seem to have the purpose of show up, say something cryptic and uncomforting, and then waddle off.
The character Elyon which seems to represent Jesus is described much like Peter Pan. A "mischeivous" water sprite who never grows up. This was very offensive to me. My savior is not some eternal child and "mischeif" (means stirring up trouble) is a character trait of the devil, NOT God.
Elyon has done something to the water in the lakes and rivers. The book seems to say that the waters used to be green but are now red with the blood of Elyon because was murdered in the water but that story is not explained.
Horde is the name for the unbelievers, who are easily recognized by their crusty scabbing skin which is a result of being infested with demon larvae. The Albinos are those who do not have the scabbing disease. They do not have the scabs because they have drowned themselves in the red lakes. (I think I know what symbolism Dekker was going for there.) The red waters keep the disease away.
Ba'al is described to a tee as Grima Wormtongue from LOTR, grotesque skin and fingernails and creeepy voice included. If you're having trouble imagining the scabbing disease, just remember the scene in LOTR where Gandalf exorcises the possessed King Theoden.
The Albinos, which seem to represent Christians, are nasty and spiteful. They treat Thomas' wife, a convert from the Horde, like she's STILL Horde. The majority of them are easily led and have no conviction of their own, just blow with whatever wind whispers doubt into their hearts. They, especially Thomas himself, preach love your enemies, love the Horde, but then out of the other side of their mouth treat them with as much love as you would have for a cow pie you'd just stepped in. They refer to the Horde as "Scabs" because of their disease and speak of them spitefully. Granted, the Horde are ever trying to kill the Albinos, and the Albinos live in hiding in a valley out in the desert to escape the death sentence. But they preach love the Horde and then as soon as Thomas' son suggests that they instead slaughter the Horde in the name of Elyon, the majority of the Albinos don't seem to resist the idea very hard and end up willingly carving the mark of the beast into themselves.
Then there are the Forest Guard who have characteristics of both Albiono and Horde. They claim to be on the right side like the Albinos, but they have the scabbing disease and are amassing an army to kill the Horde. They live in the forest and are also on the Horde's most wanted list with the Albinos. These are who Thomas' wayward son goes to initially with his plan to unite and slaughter the Horde. I am not sure who they are supposed to represent. Perhaps "lukewarm Christians" who claim the name but refuse to change in their hearts. This is a parallel I do appreciate the significance of. I think alot of authors leave out the middle ground because it's for God to decide who is and isn't lukewarm. I think the fact that "Green" is fictionalized leaves an opening to mention that there IS a 'middle' ground that thinks they fall on the Right side but do after all fall on the Wrong, and I'm pleased to see that Dekker took that opportunity to mention it. We need to remember that true salvation is soul deep.
One thing that was supremely disturbing was the descriptive occult ritual scenes. The first one of which described the "scab" king and queen going to the evil preist Ba'al's temple in the middle of the night. There is a sacrificed decapitated goat on the altar and the head is described as bleeding on a plate nearby. Ba'al drags his finger through the blood before enjoying a taste. Then he makes the king swear allegience to their god (who is of course the devil) by drinking a goblet full of the goat's blood. Later, the prophets of Ba'al slice themselves open repeatedly and drain their own blood on an altar to the demons. Dekker describes it in great nauseating detail. When I got to this part I had to put down the book and did a week of serious prayer before picking up the book again. I do not believe a Christian should be reading things like that and it made me feel dirty and sick inside. After a week of praying over it I decided that I would finish the book because upon signing up to review for TN I agreed that I would read the whole book in order to post an accurate and fair review. I think that's totally fair of course and I would not feel properly equipped to review a book which I had only read the first half of. So I signed the contract not thinking that I would have a moral dilemma on the very first book I selected to review. Leave it to me to unknowingly pick something controversial! Lol!
BUT I am first and foremost loyal to God so I decided therefore that I would finish the book yes, but if I encountered any more scenes where there appeared to be content to make me feel morally violated, I would just skip that scene and pick up where it ended. And so I have.

So my final word is that I would not recommend this book to anyone, Christian or not. I would not recommend it for a non-christian due to the misleading nature of some of the spiritual elements, and I could not recommend it to a Christian due to the disturbingly graphic nature of the rituals as explained above. In a 5 star rating with 5 being buy a copy for everyone I've ever met, and 1 being put it out with the trash, I would have to give "Green" by Ted Dekker a 1.5 for the merit of a fast-paced plot.

This book was originally reviewed for Thomas Nelson Publishing and the original version review posted HERE. This is a lengthened version which I kept feeling the need to post because I had left alot unsaid in V1 that I felt was important. I was provided with a copy of the book for free, in exchange for an honest review. Both version 1 and version 2 of my reviews are totally my unswayed opinion, unedited by anyone but myself. I received no other compensation for my review than the copy of the book.

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