I keep saying “Christian fiction” has to be at least as good as, and preferably better than, ordinary secular fiction. But I read so much “Christian” stuff that isn’t, I’m beginning to think no one believes me.
And, as Edgar Rice Burroughs observed, to be out on a limb and behind the 8-ball at the same time is very bad business.
I’m facing a dilemma, and in order to tell you about it–who says readers can’t give you good advice?–I feel the need to disguise some of the particulars.
I am to read and review a series of novels by a certain author whom I have long respected and whose non-fiction writing I’ve enjoyed for years. As far as I know, these books are his first fiction. Let us call him, oh, Abner Doubleday.
I don’t know how to review this guy’s books. If I say what I really think, he ain’t gonna like it. But if I don’t, then why review them at all?
In his novels, Doubleday has re-imagined some of the most tantalizing bits of the Book of Genesis and, backed up by lots of solid research, tried to elucidate their meaning for us. His non-fiction essays on these subjects–exactly who or what, for instance, were those “giants in the earth”?–are compelling, very well argued, and endlessly thought-provoking. I have learned much by reading them.
But the novels are written in a prose style reminiscent of… well, a comic book. Or, even worse, one of those awful movies based on a comic book. I find it painful to read them. He stops just short of having angels call each other “dude” and writing “ya” for “you.”
Elsewhere, Mr. Doubleday has written most persuasively on the need for Christian art–be it novels or movies or music–not only to measure up to the world’s art in quality, but to be of even better quality. Why? Because we’re competing with the world, and we want to win ground for Christ’s Kingdom.
But this… Abner, Abner, what have you done? You have turned the Bible into a comic book! I keep expecting to turn the page and find ads for X-ray glasses and Sea Monkeys.
So how will I review these novels? The way I see it, I have three options: A) Chicken out, invent some excuse, and just not do it. B) Write a totally honest review and make a lot of people mad at me. They might even think I’m an idiot: these books have lots of 5-star reviews on amazon.com. C) Go with the flow, just join in with all these other reviewers in praising the gorgeous clothes of this naked emperor, and establish myself as a reviewer whose word can’t be trusted.
Maybe somehow I can do (B) gracefully. But it’ll be a mighty fine trick if I can pull it off.