Friday, August 29, 2008

Freshening up the blog...

I'm hoping to get back to blogging here with a tad more regularity, so I asked the talented Hanna Sandvig (one of the CSFF Blog Tour regulars and a bona fide artist)to give me a new look.

I'm still working on updating stuff on the sidebar (you'll see that some areas have double headers for a time), but I hope you think this looks cool.

I do. :)

If you've changed links in the last year, drop me a line so I can fix it on my sidebar.

Thanks, Hanna.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Christian SF & Fantasy Blog Tour: BROKEN ANGEL by Sigmund Brouwer

Her birth was shrouded in mystery and tragedy.
Her destiny is beyond comprehension.
Her pursuers long to see her broken.

This month's CSFF Blog Tour focuses on Sigmund Brouwer’s futuristic dystopian novel called BROKEN ANGEL.

Notably for me, this is the first novel I've read in eight months. Prior to my eye surgery, I had begun developing a chronic rash on the bridge of my nose and upper cheeks from glasses I needed to wear every waking moment, an eczema that turned into a severely aggravated suppurating bit of nastiness with a change to reading glasses post-surgically. Fortunately, reading glasses are only needed when, er reading. Unfortunately, it put the kibosh on a lot of my pleasure time with the written word (except for stuff online that I can bring up to a big font.) I've gone through multiple pairs of glasses in assorted materials, seeking one that will affect my face the least (or, one dreams, not at all.)

On the plus side, BROKEN ANGEL is a short novel, and even with frequent "face breaks", I was able to enjoy its fast pace and likable (if not deeply examined) "heroes" and root against the big bad sadistic bounty hunter who pursues our good guys.

She fights to soar.

Broken Angel is the story of Caitlyn, a young girl with a physical aberration (that won't be hard to figure out between the title and the opening chapters) that marks her as a "freak" who must hide her body. After an opening that gives us some history, the story takes off when Caitlyn and her father set their escape plan into motion. Soon she finds herself alone and the object of relentless hunters. If she is caught, she will be killed. Period. She doesn't understand why, only that she is wanted, and wanted to an obssessive degree.

If she escapes...a hope of normality awaits. OUTSIDE.

But fleeing from the closed society in which she's been raised is not easy, and it's not for the faint-hearted.

BROKEN ANGEL is also, to a lesser degree, the story of her father, a fugitive in a futuristic landscape that is a sort of an extrapolated-to-extreme version of our own current cultural religio-socio divide.

The setting is a futuristic US that has split into two nations--one a secular humanist one and the other a totalitarian "cultish" Church-dominated one in Appalachia where reading is forbidden, the Bible removed from the hands of those who are not the privileged elders, and high-tech surveillance keeps people in check.

OUTSIDE--they abort, experiment with embryos, and otherwise go on their godless way with the ability to choose. We don't see this place, we only hear it referred to.

APPALACHIA--they have a simpler life with a single religion, but they are not allowed to make choices and are essentially controlled from womb to tomb.

Both societies have ruthless bounty hunters, but the Appalachian one, whose main motivation is to get the heck outta there and wreak his sadistic mayhem in a bigger landscape, is by far the most chilling.

When the novel focuses on the misfits--Caitlynn and her torturously maturing body; Theo, orphaned and traumatized , gifted with superb hearing as compensation for his farsightedness; and Billy, the good-natured big moose of a deputy who is stronger than many realize as the tale progresses--it's great fun. I like these folks and I like a brisk pace, which thrillers should have!

When it focuses on the villain, the bred-to-be-badder-than-bad Mason Lee, it could just as well be a secular novel's no-shades-of-gray sociopath. Which, by the way, is not always bad. Sometimes, an irredeemably driven and horrible bad guy is chillingly fun (think of the revolting, murderous partners in Gaiman's NEVERWHERE). In a novel this short, when main characters get a bit of short shrift in the depth department (which, again, isn't always a huge demerit in an all-out thriller), spending time to flesh out a villain doesn't always make sense. So, I get that.

What I felt was that I needed more of Caitlyn and her father.

Overall, however, I can say I had a good time with BROKEN ANGEL. It's a well-done Christian thriller that, barring two places (one in particular) where the "here is the message for Christians today" sermon is briefly, even awkwardly added to the story, this is not preachy. In fact, the Church is the one criticized most of all, not unbelievers. The messages are not always smoothly integrated, and there is a contradiction in places between those cautionary and exhortative messages and the ongoing developments and finale.

However, having contradictions makes one think, and this made me think. I may not wholly agree with Brouwer's points, but I agree with the spirit and general warning he gives in BROKEN ANGEL.

It's a good read. It's got characters I hope to see again (though I have no idea if this is stand-alone or will be part of some series.) It does stand alone, btw. The ending has satisfaction. I just wish to see more of Caitlyn and her pals and spend time with her in the OUTSIDE.

Recommended for fans of thrillers--especially fugitive/pursuit types--who don't mind some mighty harsh torture scenes. Also has a few satisfying tidbits for fans of romance. (Not enough by me. Sigh. Me likey romantic subplots.)

Here's a link to the video for the song "Beautiful Bird by Cindy Morgan. The lyrics are found at the end of the novel.

For more comments on this novel, including reviews and giveaways, visit my tourmates:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Mark Goodyear
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Shannon McNear
Melissa Meeks
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Steve Rice
Ashley Rutherford
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
Mirtika or Mir's Here
Sean Slagle
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Laura Williams