Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Review of "Forbidden"

Forbidden (The Books of Mortals #1) by Ted Dekker & Tosca Lee was sent to me as an advanced copy by Center Street Publishers. It is being released today, September 13, 2011.

My husband read this one (this is really more his type of book than mine…), so I am letting him do the review today!

This Sci-Fi-ish book is set in the future after the human race has come back from the brink of destruction following the Zealot War.  Nuclear holocaust nearly destroyed humanity, and drastic steps were taken to prevent it from ever happening again.  The best minds left on earth discovered the parts of DNA responsible for human emotion and eradicated all of them but fear.  Now, living in a society governed by a religion based on fear (the only human emotion left), war and violence are literally a thing of the past.  The last act of violence took place nearly 500 years ago, making a martyr out of the founder of The Order, the new and only religion in the world.

One day after walking home from work, Rom is accosted by an old man who gives him a package.  The old man calls himself a keeper and says that Rom’s father was a keeper too.  Now, Rom must take the package and protect mankind’s last hope.  Rom is confused, and things get even more terrifying when he witness the old man being murdered by the ruler’s elite guard, something which is incomprehensible in this age.  Rom opens that package and discovers that it contains blood that, when drunk, will awaken all of the emotions that humanity has lost.
Now Rom and his friends must decide the future of the world.  Having emotions is something that they have only read about in history books.  Human emotions like love, joy, and happiness are something they can’t possibly comprehend.  But, history also tells of greed, envy, hate, and ambition.  These are what led to the Zealot War in the first place.  Is the wealth of new emotions worth the cost of the negative ones?  And what of the current rulers?  They teach only Order, and anyone outside of Order is punished, even by death.  Thus begins the Book of Mortals.

The concept of this book is fascinating.  How do you try to describe someone feeling emotions for the first time?  The intellectual exercise of trying to imagine feeling for the first time is exhilarating.  How can you relay those thoughts to your readers?  I was very excited to find out.  And I did…5 times.  The first time someone drank the blood and felt emotions for the first time, it was interesting and exciting.  It took a few chapters (they are pretty short chapters) to convey it all, but it was done well.  Then, the next person took the blood, and the same thing happens again.  Then again.  Then again.  By the time the fifth person took the blood, I was ready to start skipping chapters.  Okay, we get it.  Their emotions are powerful and scary and they don’t know what to do.  You explained that already.  Get on with the story.  But, then we learn of someone ELSE who has found another way to get emotions (sort of), and we get to read about it all over yet again!
For this reason, this book takes forever to get going.   My wife does book reviews all the time (you know that if you are reading this on her site!), and she told me that this is a disturbing trend in series today.  Many authors will decide to do a trilogy from the start.  When that happens, the first book is mostly background and mostly boring.  The pace quickens at the end of the book making for an exciting (usually) ending, encouraging you to read the second book.  The second book is either a rehash of the first book or filler.  The third book is the story they wanted to write, but they wanted to sell two more books in the process.  I am not sure that Dekker and Lee were trying to do that here, but I will say that the first two-thirds of this book were nearly painful to get through.

On the other hand, it did end well.  Finally, the story started and we could get on with the plot.  I am now somewhat interested to see what happens to some of the characters.  Even though some of the more interesting characters were killed off, I still wouldn’t mind finding out what happens from here.
Also, I would like to say that I have a bit of a problem with the theme of the book.  From what I have read, Ted Dekker is a Christian novelist who is seems to be trying to get away from the title of Christian novelist.  Most of his stuff is pretty clean and it does have some religious overtones if you try to find them, but for the most part he tries to stay away from that now.  Then you get to this book.  The religious allegory is undeniable.  (See my spoilers below for more on this). I think Mr. Dekker needs to make up his mind.  It would make reading his books less confusing.

Overall, I would give this book 2 1/2 bookworms.  It has potential to be a good book, but it took WAY too long to get started.

Thanks, honey! We will have to decide later if we want to continue with this series or not.

(Watch out! Major Spoilers Below) 

So, is this a Christian book or not?  Everyone in the book is named Rom or Avra, or Triphon.  Then we meet the person that the whole book centers on, and his name is Jonathan.  He is predicted in a prophecy to be born with emotions for no reason (almost immaculately) in 500 years.  He is prophesied to be the one to become the Sovereign and rule the world.  According to the prophecy, everyone on earth is dead and only those with emotion are alive.  At one point, he actually says “by his blood we were brought to life”.  Then, at the end of the book, we learn that the boy’s name is actually Jonathan EMMANUAL!  COME ON!  If you want to stop being known as a Christian writer, then stop writing books where the main character is a picture of Christ!

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