Wednesday, June 20, 2007

CSFF Blog Tour: THE RESTORER



Oh, dear. The day got away with me. That's what happens when I'm writing and going, "Oh, okay, that stunk. Let's try that again." Seven pages later--I didn't say I was fast!--it's almost Thursday.

I wanted to be all sweetness and nice today, which is not what I've been feeling after reading a particular blog tourmate's review. I actually felt like chewing someone's nose off. But then, hey, that's me. I have an inner vicious beeyotch who comes to the fore at times.

She's calmer now, thanks.

I think it's best I say why this novel entertained and worked for me, because YOU might be a reader like ME who will connect to one or more things in the story  of THE RESTORER. But I don't always do what's best. Sometimes, I have to address some of the not so nice stuff.

I will add that I think having the freedom to give negative reviews is necessary. I'm not talking supersnarky or cruel, but critical. And the reviewer who ticked me off actually had some interesting and valid critique points. Too bad this person added some personally narrow and irrelevant points that could only serve to be offensive and be a sort of arrogant slapping down of the author and her work, not to mention her particular segment of Christendom.

Hey, if someone wants to do that, that's freedom of speech. I happen to think it's rather tacky, too.

Some reviews were quite fair in stating the novel wasn't the reviewer's cup of tea because X or Y or Z. And that's fine. I haven't always enjoyed the features of the blog tour. Happens.

Some reviews found plotholes, and while I agree with one or two, I think the others are just being uber-nitpickey and aren't plotholes so much as things the reviewer just didn't like. And one reviewer bashed a non-Catholic novel for, essentially, not being Catholic, which is just plain laughable to me and says something about the reviewer's prejudices. It's as if I picked up and read a feminist SF novel, knowing that's what it was, and then complained that it was, er, feminist and not traditionalist. Well, duh.

Let me talk to the readers who are or may be part of the target audience for this novel. Do chime in if  one or more of these represents you:

1. You have yet to read a fantasy with a middle class protagonist who is middle-aged, female, a stay at home wife and mom, who is a believing Christian of the more Evangelical sort (I don't think any denomination is named, could be wrong, my memory sucks, but let's say American-style reformed Protestant). In other words, a protagonist who is a mirror of your reality, because YOU are a not-so-spring-chickeny married Christian woman with kids, perhaps.

2. You don't favor high-tech sorts of SF. You are more interested in seeing characters deal with conflict in relationships and in their spiritual lives, accented by an external conflict with clear cut villains.

3.  You don't come at a novel with a fine-tooth comb seeking out the things that aren't absolutely perfect, but allow yourself to be swept away by a character's tale.

4.  You aren't at all put off by Scripture in fiction, because you live daily with Scripture in your life, for guidance, for comfort, for decision-making. Scripture is not decorative to you. It's integral to your daily walk.

5.  You don't want excess violence, you don't want graphic sexuality, etc.

6.  You can accept bad guys who are just bad, because they're bad baddies, and don't need a psychoanalysis of why they're baddies.

7. You don't have an anti-Evangelical agenda.


I, btw, don't mind graphic violence in novels, and I am not put off by some sexuality (as long as I don't feel jerked around, like someone is trying to hook me with, essentially, porn scenes).

I don't like casual and overuse of Scripture to prop up stories, but I value Scripture so much in my daily life, that it seems unnatural to me to have Christian characters who do NOT speak verses in times of duress or reflection. I speak with verses (even though I can't seem to memorize them anymore, unlike the days of my youth), so it's not freaky to me that characters do so, likewise. (Jesus, the apostles, they had no trouble speaking in verses, came quite naturally.) I do like to read some high-tech, hard sf, but I gravitate to fantasy and I like strong emotions, even romantic subplots.

And I can suspend disbelief enough to forgive a plothole or two, a flaw or two, if something else moves me long in the story.

Oh, yes, and I am middle-aged,  happily married, Christian (of the Evangelical variety),  stay at home wife, and sometimes wonder if I'm fulfilling my purpose in life. And I know I'm not as fully surrendered as I should be. I can't deny it. So, the theme of this novel spoke to ME.

And I love both motivated baddies and some unmotivated ones. The fact that I loved the Buffyverse is enough to say that some things are evil just cause they are works for me at times. Buffy didn't have to explain away why a vampire wanted to eat her up, she just killed it. Not a problem for me. Frodo and company didn't have to analyze why Sauron was such a nasty bit of icky badness, he was and he needed to be defeated. Works for me. I don't need a case analysis of the White Witch or the Wicked Witch of the West. I'm quite all right with the fact that, hey, there are bad baddies. As far as I know, we still aren't totally clear on why demons are demons, but they are.

The Gender Divide: It's evident here. If you're a guy, okay, this is probably not gonna do it for you.

But THE RESTORER, a first fantasy novel for its author, does seem ideally targeted for the CBA type of female reader. And when I look around at the reviews by women, I see a lot of happy readers giving enthusiastic thumbs up to this SAHM's journey into a land that has strong echoes of the Old Testament, specifically the time when God did equip certain men (and at least one woman) with gifts and graces necessary to fend off threats from without and within.

There is a taste of allegory here, though I know it's not intended to be such. Susan as Deborah, the enemies so like Israel's, the clans so like Israel, the Verses so like the holy writings, the Restorers so like the judges.

The accusation of Deus Ex MAchina: Um, excuse me, but when a world is built with the premise that there is a Deus and He does act, then it's not unrealistic to expect some divine intervention in some or many forms. Maybe someone should have told God he shouldn't have stopped the sun for Joshua, just too D.E.M., ya know?

No. If a world allows for the possibility of a god or God to act on behalf of his purposes and for his people (which McMaster Bujold used brilliantly in THE CURSE OF CHALION and PALADIN OF SOULS), then we shouldn't be surprised if He does just that. That is not a plothole. That is not a weakness. That is an outworking of a set-up. It can be done satisfactory or not for readers, but that's enough of a set-up for me.You got a god or gods or God, then, fine, I'll expect that these may play a part.

I also don't think "Because Tolkien didn't do that" is quite a valid critique element.

If the world in which Lyric is found is  world like the time of the prophets and judges, then expect miracles. To discount miracles is to betray the set-up. And to discount divine intervention altogether is to discount God. I can't do that as a Christian, sorry.

One thing I do agree was a mistake was the sword transformation. That made no sense in hindsight. But, hey, when I was reading, it didn't even register, because I allowed for the possibility that this was a dreamworld or a magic world. The criticism is valid about that. If the way to get into the alternate reality is justified via some weird science, then you can't have a fake sword turning into a real one. That's magic.

For me, as a reader, it was not even much of a blip because of where my mindset was at that point: I still didn't know how the world worked, so I just suspended disbelief until I got more world foundation under my reading feet.

MILD SPOILERS AHEAD:

I would like to address one particularly critical remark, one that really set my teeth on edge, which took the villainous Rhusicans as a cautionary element saying, "Don't talk to non-Christians." How insulting. That sort of theory actually besmirches the author's character, and I find it ungracious and offensive, frankly. Shame on that reviewer.

My take on the Rhusicans is that they had a gift like Satan's, able to poison people with doubt, as the adversary purred doubt in Eve's ear, and tried to do the same with our Lord in the desert. I thought the idea of a mental poison of the Satanic sort was perfect for an alternate reality that is echoing  Biblical times. Instead of one adversary able to infect with doubt, there are several, they are a race. So, the parallel to me was of demons. And that's pretty cool to me.

One of my favorite parts of the novel is how the poisoning is done and how the healing is accomplished. Works for me as a reader, because it's worked very close to that way for me in my real life. I've had to deal with the deceiver by using God's Word, literally filling myself with it until the deceiver's lies are silenced.

Have you fought off dark thoughts, doubts, and temptations to despair with the Word? If you have, you'll want to read those Rhusican passages. Tell me if they ring at all true.

The Restorers, btw, are not Christs. I haven't asked the author if she intended for them to be "Christs", but from the context I took them to be "judges." The Deborah echoes being a big clue there.

SPOILER SECTION OVER

Another issue: Susan has been described as "whiny". Yes, she has moments of whininess. A bit more than I would like, but not unrealistically so. Fits the character, imo. What some see as whiny, others see as "my life, my reality" and "how I'd be put in her place." That's how some readers who loved the novel see it. One man's whiny is one woman's quotidian experience.

At least Susan bucks up and takes on her role, while a guy like, say, Jonah just stayed a whiny, resentful jerk of a reluctant prophet through his whole tale. And yet, we learn even from Jonah. This may also be a man/woman thing. Lots of novels, Chick Lit come to mind, and these aren't aimed at men. They have a characters who suffer angst over their relational and life obstacles, and yes, they whine and complains and feel dissatisfied, then go out and do something. Yes, eventually, they rise to the occasion. Susan rises to the occasion. And she doesn't do so instantly, which would be less realistic, perhpas, even if less annoying to some. I put myself in her "soccer mom" shoes, and I'd probably have been puking and crapping on myself. But I'd like to think I'd eventually get over myself and rise, too.

The techie stuff: Don't give a hoot. No, really, I'm just not the person to go to for those sorts of critiques. I can barely check my car engine's oil or install software and I stopped keeping up with Scientific American ages ago.

One more point: A character desiring a sense of the presence of God is not a hidden clue of a subsconsious desire to convert to Catholicism and routinely revel in the presence of transubstantiated materials. Puhlease. Have some respect for the author's own religious experience. That's not reading between the lines, that ripping up the lines and cutting up the letters and putting back on the page what one wants to see. It's pretty damn rude.

THE RESTORER kept me turning pages and ignoring the quibbles I had. Not all novels get me ignoring quibbles--sometimes, I will get quite vexed with a plothole. But sometimes, there's enough there to keep me going. A storyteller's job is to keep you reading. Sharon Hinck kept me reading and not overanalyzing. She took me away for some hours, and I had fun.

Yep, fun. Imagine that.

And I notice that among the women readers in my acquaintance, it's a hit. It works. Perhaps because many of us have felt like this heroine: nothing seriously wrong with our life--great hubby, nice house, healthy kids, etc--but there was this part of us that yearned for more, to be special, to be appreciated, to just be MORE.

If that's been you, get a copy. You are the person who may perk up and glow reading this story.

Amazon has it for less than twelve bucks. Come on. Try it.

And if you do like it, maybe drop by Sharon's blog or website and let her know you did. It would be balm to any author's heart to hear that, I bet.

Now, I need to go back to my own fictional battle, or would that be battle with my fiction?

And now, my tourmates:
Trish Anderson
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Grace Bridges
Amy Browning
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Frank Creed
Lisa Cromwell
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Chris Deanne
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Linda Gilmore
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Russell Griffith
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Sherrie Hibbs
Heather R. Hunt
Becca Johnson
Jason Joyner
Kait
Karen
Dawn King
Tina Kulesa
Lost Genre Guild
Rachel Marks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
John Ottinger
Robin Parrish
Rachelle
Cheryl Russel
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika Schultz
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Jason Waguespac
Daniel I. Weaver

5 comments:

John said...

You go, girl. ;)

Becky said...

Mir, I think this is a thorough, thought-out rebuttal.

I have to say, I can understand someone from a different theological persuasion not liking the book for what it said but certainly not for how it was written.

The point you made about deus es machina was EXCELLENT.

Becky

Eve said...

I really enjoyed the "poisoning" part too-that's exactly how sin works!

D. G. D. Davidson said...

Thanks for an interesting essay. You may want to know I left a response to your latest comment:
http://www.scificatholic.com/2007/06/response-to-mir.html

Mirtika said...

Thanks, DGD. Not that I'm gonna start spending hours on theological discussions (don't have the inclination or time), but I already understand and have previously seen all the points you raised. Just as you probably have seen any of the points I would have raised in debate. We aren't going to change each other's minds. :)

And that's okay with me. I don't see Catholics as out of the body, so I don't feel a need to get you to my side. I assume you already are in the key areas.

Mir