“The sound of boots crunching into gravel carried across the blacktop while the man who wore them was still a shimmering black figure approaching the sign that read Welcome to Paradise, Colorado. Population 450.
The opening sentence of the first chapter is incredibly vivid and concise. It’s all too easy to lose yourself in Ted Dekker’s fictional town, and the multiple senses further cement your locale.
And two pages prior, courtesy of a telling and intriguing prologue, I was officially introduced to Marsuvees Black, whose very presence inevitably sent shivers along my spine. Black got into my head. He was about the embark upon a journey of a lifetime. A wild trip, if you will.
The prologue blew me away, rendering me speechless and addicted.
As I delved deeper, however, I found myself strangely underwhelmed. The precision and clarity of such works likeAdam and the Circle series simply aren’t here. Call it lazy writing or what you will, Showdown is really lacking a lot.
Regarding the unclear (or vague) writing, much of it required me to go back and actually re-read innumerous passages in order to fully grasp them. Admittedly, there were a few occasions where I lost focus, and going back helped clarify what was going on, but sadly those were few and far between.
As Paradise gradually unraveled, key characters like Johnny Drake and Samuel Abraham were forced to find ways of coping with their predicament, and by doing so you’d think the full scope of their characters would come to light. Sadly, that never happened. Though there is minimal growth, most of them were rather flat.
Throughout the novel, Dekker played with a fascinating concept: ignorance as spiritual blindness. With the exemption of a select few, the town’s population are completely oblivious to what should be painfully obvious. The rapidity with which Marsuvees works, and especially the extent they’re willing to go, are prime examples of this.
But typical of Dekker, he takes things much further, peppering the work with profound statements that consistently astounded me.
“Everything each of us does affects the others. None of lives in a vacuum. We’re simply children on a quest to gain the highest forms of wisdom without being compromised in the process. But when one is compromised, the others are compromised. You see that, don’t you?”
My absolute favorite aspect of the book was the importance of writing, and the fact that words are indeed powerful. I’ve always been drawn to stories centered around writing (and, by extension, the craft itself,) but what the author achieved here, and the methods used to pull it off, do not parallel anything I’ve ever read.. except for the Circle series, which shares similar concepts and is clearly connected. This is a story only Dekker could have written, IMO.
Neither do I believe these elements were merely incorporated for the sake of making it more interesting. I believe it was his intent to explore the power of the written word as a primary theme. As if to help support this, John 1:1-2 was inserted into the text:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning.”
Ahh.. the immense power of words. Its utter capacity is truly indescribable.
“Live to discover, as long as discovery leads to a love that comes from the Creator… writing was the mirror to life.”
At the heart of the novel is mankind’s struggle of Good v. Evil. It’s an interesting take on Original Sin, as seen in Genesis 3. Albeit incredibly cliche, the devil’s in the details, as the saying goes. ‘Battles are being fought all around us,’ after all.
“The battle over flesh and blood cannot compare to the battle for the heart.”
Coupled with flat characters and vague depictions, I found many contrivances throughout, and Samuel’s (view spoiler) was slightly predictable. For obvious reasons, it’s also lacking in originality.
Last but certainly not least (my most passionate critique, in fact,) was the huge discrepancy between the all too brief version of Thomas of Hunter here, and that seen in the four books comprising the epic Circle series. Perhaps I was at a disadvantage, having read the latter first, but why should that make a difference? In the Author’s Note, he even tells us Dekkies that they can be read in pretty much any order. He designed them to be read as such. “The Books of History Chronicles are unique because they are circular, not linear.”
As the first part of the trilogy thankfully drew to a close, I certainly had my reservations. I wasn’t entirely certain that I’d even continue reading them. Yet, the last 100 or so pages pulled me back in with several jaw-dropping twists, relentless suspense, and one profound event that left me breathless.
How could I NOT keep going??
In closing,“There’s different ways to be impacted by truth. One is to read the scriptures. Another is to read other works by other people who have read the scriptures, non fiction for example. Another is to do studies. Another is to go to a place of worship. Another thing is to sit and listen to someone who’s speaking. There’s all kinds of ways. Another way is to write. About the truth. Discover the struggle through your character.”