Friday, July 21, 2017

Happy Space Exploration Day!

Yesterday was National Space Exploration Day. It commemorates the anniversary of the first manned moon landing on July 20th, 1969 by the Apollo 11 Crew. To celebrate, enjoy these sci-fi blog highlights!

Feeling like watching some sci-fi movies? Check out my brief reviews of three films about space exploration by clicking here.

In the mood for some character analysis? Here's a Pastors in Fiction article about Shepherd Book from the TV series Firefly. 

Or, check out my interview with author Kerry Nietz about Frayed, his Christian sci-fi novel that was released last summer. I'm excited to (hopefully) read it on my flight tomorrow!

Starting tomorrow, I'll have very limited ability to check on the blog for the next few weeks, but posts will continue to be put up on Fridays. Thanks for your patience!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sequel Review: "The Sword in the Stars"

The Short:

The Errant King
The Dark Sea Annals, Book 2

By: Wayne Thomas Batson

5/5 Stars

What: A young king must protect his kingdom from attacks from without—and within.

Recommended to those who like: Fantasy, Darker stories, Teen and up, Christian

The Long:

While this book takes place 20 years after the events of The Sword in the Stars, I would highly recommend reading this book second so as to not miss the intricate details of the backstory.

Loch has recently come to the throne, but, in spite of being king of the known world, he feels dissatisfied. His mother is wasting away in her grief, he has few true friends, distant relatives make plays for his throne, and attacks upon his kingdom have been numerous. And those are just the threats he knows about within his own borders. Will he be able to shoulder the responsibility that his position requires?

Once again, Mr. Batson has spun a captivating and rich tale, full of vibrant characters, rich action, and deep conflict. Like with the first book in this series, there is a significant amount of darkness, so I would recommend it for only teens and up.

The Christian message is a little stronger in this book (it’s an allegory after all), but it doesn’t overwhelm the story. Rather, it weaves nicely through the background. I look forward to seeing how the threads and hints we’ve had up to this point will play out in the rest of the series.

Unfortunately for us, it could be a while before book 3 comes out. Mr. Batson has decided to self-publish the rest of the series. It’s going to be hard to wait much longer for the rest of the series!

The Bottom Line: A high fantasy tale suited for teens and up, this Christian allegory builds upon a rich backstory and well-rounded characters for a gripping read.

Remember, beginning next week, posts will only be put up on Fridays for the next several weeks.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Hound Dog Harmonies: "Light of the World"

Incidentally, I've discovered a few Christian bands through my favorite authors. In this new series, I'm going to explore some of that music and analyze it a little. I'm going to start out with a shorter post/analysis today and hopefully expand to something a little more in-depth. Let me know what you think down in the comments! 

The Short: 

Song: "Light of the World"

Artist: Theocracy

Album: As the World Bleeds

Genre: Metal

Listening Suggestion: Car jam session

Christian Author Listener(s): Wayne Thomas Batson

Selected Lyrics:

You are the light of the world, he said.
But we've blown out our candles and left men for dead.
Singing, "We are the light of the world, he said".
As the darkness descends on us all.

If we were the light of the world today,
Would we hide in the shadows and scare them away?
Are we the light of the world, 
Or are we failing to answer the call?

You can listen to the full song on Youtube, through Spotify, through Amazon Prime Music, or whatever your favorite outlet happens to be.

The Long: 

As I mentioned earlier, I'm not really a Christian music fan. I find most of it to sound similar, to have (at best) questionable lyrics, and overall it just isn't my cup of tea. I found Theocracy about a year ago through a Facebook group and then quickly discovered that Wayne Thomas Batson, one of my favorite authors, is also a fan of the band. 

At first, I wasn't sold on the group. Depending on the song, their sound's a little more "thrashy" than I typically like. However, what sold me on the group was their lyrics. 

Where many bands might have stopped at reminding us of Jesus' statement that we are to be the light of the earth, the Theocracy crew didn't hesitate to point out that we often fail at that mission without any shame. Ouch.

As I wrote about a while back, I find it interesting that we don't always consider the target audience for Christian media. While we as Christians certainly need comfort and uplifting songs, I think there's also a place for songs that convict and challenge us, lest we become lulled into a sense of self-righteousness.

 What was the last song that made you think about your faith?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Friday Fiction Fix: "Edge of Oblivion"

Edge of Oblivion (The Chronicles of Sarco, #1)The Short:

Edge of Oblivion
(The Chronicles of Sarco, Book 1)

By: Joshua A. Johnson

4.5/5 Stars

What: A mysterious ship is bent on the destruction of the interstellar Confederacy. The only hope for civilization seems to be an average starship’s crew quest for archaic artifacts.

Recommended to those who like: Sci-fi/Space Opera, Christian

The Long:

Earth’s history is lost, but a new future has emerged. Spaceflight has been developed and an alliance, the Confederacy, has formed between Earth and other planets. That bright future is now at risk. A strange outside force has invaded and is now bent on the destruction of the Confederacy. All that stands in the way is an average starship crew and their unlikely quest to find religious texts that may be related to the invaders.

This book had one of the more believable sci-fi casts that I’ve read recently. Members were neither absurdly odd nor overly good at their jobs—it’s very believable that this ship is representative of the thousands of others in the Confederacy, making them relatable. Although I didn’t relate to any single one of them in particular, I found them well-developed and likeable as a whole.

The worldbuilding in this book was fantastic. Each world is given the right amount of attention to paint a suitable backdrop without overwhelming the reader. Similarly, there were enough alien species give a feeling of galactic diversity without seeming too large to explore.

I really wanted to give this book five stars, and the plot was promising at first. However, the climax was rushed and came close to becoming a deus ex machina. It fit into the plot and several of the plot seeds planted, but it didn’t depend too much on the characters or their skills. 

The Christian element was well-played and provides an interesting look at salvation and religion in an interstellar story realm. It was never overwhelming and I look forward to seeing the topic explored in more depth in the upcoming books.

The Bottom Line: Edge of Oblivion would be a good pick for sci-fi fans who are looking for a brief exploration of Christianity and a rich exploration of alien worlds.                                                                    

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

July/August Blog Update

Due to Independence Day celebrations here in the U.S., I didn't have time to crank out a full post. However, I did prepare a quick update on what you can expect from the blog in the near future.

July/August Posting Schedule

I'm going to be out of the country for several weeks, so my posting schedule is going to be sparse at best. I will likely be unavailable to reply to comments toward the end of the month. 

This week, there will be a Friday Fiction Fix and next week will have a normal posting schedule. Then, from July 17th until August 26th, there will be one post per week on Fridays. Most likely, the posts will consist of archive highlights and the occasional book review; it all depends on what I have time to whip up in between packing and practicing my German. 

If by chance you're struck by the sudden inspiration to create a guest post, you can email me in the next couple weeks and I'll be sure to work it into the schedule!

Thanks for your patience through this time!

Posting Topics

I realize that my posting topics have been a little random of late. I'm working on some new post series and ideas. I hope to continue Pastors in Fiction as I read books that provide good material to analyze. I'm also looking to explore some topics relating to villains and the portrayal of good vs. evil once I get back from my trip. I'm sure I'll also come up with a way to incorporate my travels into some blog posts.

Thanks for your patience! Happy Independence Day!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Sequel Review: Merlin's Nightmare

I would suggest reading Merlin's Blade and Merlin's Shadow prior to this book. As always, this review should be spoiler-free. I'll be back next week with a new series!

The Short:

Merlin’s Nightmare
The Merlin Spiral, Book 1

By: Robert Treskillard

4/5 Stars

What: It’s time for Arthur to take his rightful place as Pendragon—but can Merlin let go of his hopes and fears to allow him to do it?

Recommended to those who like: Arthurian legend, Christian, fantasy.

The Long:

In the final installment of the Merlin Spiral, Merlin and company have settled into their new lives. Arthur is a growing man, skilled in war, while Merlin has settled into his new life as a bard, raising his family. But when disaster strikes Britain, will Merlin be able to let Arthur go meet his destiny? Or will his old fears keep him from trusting God’s plan?

This was a nice conclusion to the Merlin Spiral, though it almost felt more like the beginning of a new series. Several new characters are introduced, while former main characters begin to take more of a back seat to Arthur and his warband. Even though this book wasn’t my favorite in the series, I thought it set up nicely for the upcoming Pendragon Spiral, which I certainly look forward to reading when it comes out.

I found the action to be exciting, but I felt removed in time from many of the villains since the gap between books 2 and 3 was so large in “story time”. I will give the book that it made me genuinely fearful for the main characters at multiple points—that’s more than many books can do—and the villains were genuinely creepy.

The Christian message was good overall, especially in the aspect that it showed characters struggling with past problems and not just miraculously never relapsing into old doubts and fears. However, I did think that it toed the line toward preachy a couple of times.

Overall, this was a good book, but I thought it was a better transitionary book than a true end to a series. I look forward to reading the next series when it comes out.

The Bottom Line: This series would be well-suited for teens and up who enjoy fantasy and don’t object to magic use by antagonists.                                                                                                                                         

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Loading up the TBR List

As many of the sites I rely upon for upcoming releases seem to be behind on updates, I've forgone the "new releases" post for a list of books I've stumbled across that have been (relatively) recently released and have piqued my interest. Excerpts/back cover blurbs taken from Enjoy!

The Remnant

William Michael Davidson

Released February 2017

Colton Pierce apprehends Abberants--those who display symptoms of faith--and quarantines them on a remote island to ensure public safety. Years prior, the government released a genetically-engineered super flu that destroyed the genes believed to be the biological source of spiritual experience in an effort to rid the world of terrorism. As an extractor with the Center for Theological Control, Colton is dedicated to the cause.

But Colton's steadfast commitment is challenged when he learns his own son has been targeted for extraction. An underground militia, the Remnant, agrees to help Colton save his son in exchange for his assistance with their plan to free the Aberrants on the island.

Harvest of Prey

Alexander Preston

Released October 2016

A team of naturalists find themselves facing a nightmare beyond anything they have ever known - and the product of unspeakable evil. 

Philip Caster, a former Green Beret now working as a zoologist, leads an international team in Indonesia whose revolutionary new program may spell salvation for the endangered Sumatran tiger. They will release six artificially-conceived cubs into the wild, accompanied by their surrogate mothers. The effort will prove the feasibility of in vitro breeding as a new tool against extinction. But its success is overshadowed by the sudden emergence of a horror beyond reckoning. Something has been unleashed in the forests of Sumatra. A life-form never meant to walk the earth. One that claims humanity as its only prey. 

As death unfolds around them, Caster and his circle of friends must uncover the truth behind an abomination: the instrument of dark and all-too-human forces pursuing a twisted ideological vision. Their creation has killed already - and their plans will consume millions more.

Scarlet Moon

S.D. Grimm

Released October 2016

The hunted Feravolk are counting on Jayden, a seventeen-year-old, dagger-wielding, storm-detecting orphan, to save their race. Maybe they should have thought of that before they killed her family.

The land of Soleden is dying because the sorceress queen hunts and kills the people who cared for all nature, the Feravolk. Through their special bond with animals, the Feravolk have become more than men. Faster, stronger, masters of camouflage and stealth. Only a Deliverer born the night of the Blood Moon can save them from extinction.

According to prophecy, Jayden is a Deliverer, but it’s not a destiny she wants. She has no sympathy for either side. The Feravolk killed her family, so they can die for all she cares. And fighting the queen with nothing but daggers and her special abilities—storm predicting—is a suicide mission. Destiny can pick someone else...

What recent releases from this list or elsewhere have caught your eye? 

I'm still in desperate need of guest posters while I'm traveling next month. Send me an email using the contact form in the side bar if you're interested!