Monday, January 29, 2007

Ted Dekker's SHOWDOWN

I finally got around to reading SHOWDOWN by Ted Dekker. I had been using the hardcover book (along with my Chicago Manual of Style) since it released as booster for my mouse pad (ie, to raise the mouse to an ergonomic level). Yeah, low-tech of me.

But I was readjusting the mousepad and, voila, found the book. I had meant to get around to it. :)

So, what did I think?

This has been one of the more immediately hooky and page-turnery books the guy's written. I left the one about the special kid partially read. (Blessed Child) I found the prose spotty and, basically, lost interest. I didn't think THRE3E started off as hooky as this one, though, granted, the twisty, thriller nature of Dekker's style are there.

SHOWDOWN gets going right off the bat. Bad guy in black comes to town, and, bam, proceeds to gouge out an innocent bystander's eyes. This while insisting he's there to bring hope and grace to Paradise, Colorado.

Okay, and what kind of hope and grace is this?

It's Marsuvees Black's version. And it's a creepy fella with a creepy preaching style, I gotta say.

The adults begin to come under his scary power, and young Johnny is the only one who seems to have kept his wits. So, Johnny, a young boy, watches his town "come apart at the seams" (as Dekker tells us more than once via more than one character).

While Paradise is unraveling, a secret monastery conducting a rather strange experiment with orphans--one intended for good, but suddenly going quite, quite wrong--is the epicenter of the evil goings on. Expect chilling moral degeneration a la LORD OF THE FLIES (if not the literary level prose) and ickiness with slight echoes of Lovecraft or a Bentley Little novel. Gross-out factor is up there, though nowhere near that of secular novels where gorefest free-for-alls are permitted. (This is, after all, Christian horror for a CBA reader.)

Dekker is excellent at ratcheting up tension and showing how easily humans can cave to their darker desires. And perhaps, cave too easily. While this is an exploration of good and evil, free will versus fatedness, I did find a sort of lopsided in terms of results.

I also found that the debates were not as thrilling as I wanted or the conclusion as clear and profound. In fact, I went "huh" more than once at the end. The showdown part of SHOWDOWN needed more depth of characterization to work as intended.

I still have to say this was a consistent page-turner. Only a few spots did I sort of want to skim in the middle-bits, with a couple of scenes that I didn't think were needed and covered old ground. But we're talking a mere handful of pages that were skimmable. Otherwise, you flip, flip, flip to find out what happens next and when the good guys will turn things aroun. And HOW they'll turn things around.

There are biblical parallels in the finale that will definitely please the Christian readers. We're wired to love that kind of echo. But when you skimp on characterization of a singularly important character, the pay-off will suffer. And that's what ultimately keeps me from giving a higher grade to SHOWDOWN. I needed more "people" in the thrillfest to make those last chapters sing.

I still give this 4 out of 5 stars for pure effectiveness as Christian horror. This is a fast read and a creepy one. Go and scare yourself.

1 comment:

The Curmudgeon's Rant said...

Wow, this reminds me that I still need to pick up a copy. I haven’t read his trilogy yet either. I hear they are great though. I always like your reviews. You get straight to the point and say it like it is. This one sounds like a winner.

BTW – It was great seeing you at CW. Be sure to introduce yourself proper, in a thread of your own. Sorry I’ve not been by lately. It’s the health thing again. Unfortunately, it’s kept me from visiting anyone, or even posting a review of my own for more than a month now. I’ve got so much catch-up to do. Argh...

Anyway, it’s great to catch up on your blog. I learn something every time I visit.