Warning: Passionate Thoughts on Christian Art
Okay, so this is really just a book review-inspired-rant. Consider thyself forewarned, reader.
When elite members of the military are murdered on the streets of Washington DC, FBI Special Agent Bailey Ryan and NCIS Special Agent Marco Agostini must work together to bring the perpetrator to justice. Unfortunately, all evidence points to a Navy SEAL sniper who Bailey refuses to believe is guilty.
When Bailey and Marco start to connect the dots between the victims, they wonder if there's a deeper cover-up at play. After
Bailey is targeted, it becomes clear that someone is willing to kill to keep their dark secrets.
With the stakes getting higher by the moment, Bailey and Marco rush against the clock to determine whom they can really trust in this twisted conspiracy. As allies turn to enemies, the biggest secret yet to be uncovered could be the end of them all.
I'm trying so hard to be gentle and non-cynical.
But here goes.
X marks the spot on the place where I stop reviewing romantic suspense.
This is X. Here's X.
How can I say this politely? I'm sure the author is a lovely person. I hate to criticize her books. (I hope she never sees this.) But "honest review" means "honest review". And "award-winning Atlanta Justice series"? Even the back cover description is one big cliche.
I couldn't finish this book, y'all. The publisher sent it to me in December, and it came recommended and everything. But I could only force myself to read about a third in the beginning (enough to figure out the plot) and then skipped to the last few chapters to see how the story tied up. Even the climax couldn't redeem the book. The last sentence literally read like this: "and as she kissed him, her heart was filled with love and hope. The End." No kidding.
End Game by Rachel Dylan was poorly written. There was little to no emotion, which prevented me from connecting with the main characters... which in turn prevented me from connecting to the story. It was one giant NCIS and FBI cliche from page 1 to the end. I should have known. But I am woefully naive, I suppose. (Or eternally hopeful that more new releases in Christian fiction will be worthy of praise.)
PSA: Don't ever steal terms from crime shows to sound knowledgeable. It doesn't work.
There are lessons here.
First, the Christian suspense on the market stinks for the most part. So someone needs to write good spy/detective/military stories! Raise your hand and get busy! The spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must rise again. (Any fans of Sherlock out there??)
Second, story is an ART. An art and a craft, and that means that you have to work hard to make sure it is excellent. I would venture to say that you shouldn't write a story unless you have a solid purpose behind it, and you have diligently honed your craft.
We wouldn't trust an electrician or doctor who hasn't taken the time to learn his profession, and we shouldn't trust novelists either.
I say this gently, as someone at the very bottom of the amateur ladder who knows she has SO MUCH to learn and is nowhere near putting stories on the market. I say it knowing that no one can ever perfectly hone a craft, and there is a fine-tipped line between paralyzing perfectionism and healthy growth.
I say it with a shy smile. But I also say it with fire in my bones.
The greatest lessons Christ taught were often through parables that engaged imaginations. The crowds on the shore of Galilee and those of us reading the gospels today all relate to His common stories that delivered God-breathed, counter-cultural truth.
Why did the Son of God bother to tell a story about a runaway son tending pigs and a jealous older brother? Why did He spend time speaking of seeds on rocky, weedy, and fertile soil? What's so special about a lost sheep in a flock of a hundred? Is it because these simple things compute in our human brains and allow us to understand through the power of metaphor and simile?
Stories -- excellent, noble stories that take the raw and ordinary to meet readers where they are -- have the power to do the same thing.
And back to my original point: any art should have a purpose behind it that engages the reader/viewer. Shouldn't Christian art be held to an even higher standard than the rest of the world? Because what more worthy purpose exists?
The stories that stand the test of time have heart behind them. They come alive and breathe and tug on your soul. Stories are mighty tools because they engage a reader's imagination.
“I want you, dear reader, to remember that one holy way of mending the world is to sing, to write, to paint, to weave new worlds. Because the seed of your feeble-yet-faithful work fell to the ground, died, and rose again, what Christ has done through you will call forth praise from lonesome travelers long after your name is forgotten. They will know someone lived and loved here.” - Andrew Peterson
Read my review of his book, Adorning the Dark, plus more quotes like this here!
I received a copy of End Game from the publisher and happily provided my honest review. (If you couldn't already tell, I was not required to give a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.)