Friday, July 28, 2017

Hound Dog Harmonies: "This My Soul"

The Short: 

Song: "This My Soul" 

Artist: The Gray Havens

Album: Ghost of a King

Genre: Folk/ Pop

Listening Suggestion: A relaxing evening on the porch with tea or hot chocolate 

Christian Author Listener(s): Nadine Brandes

Selected Lyrics:

I would really suggest that  you go read the lyrics in their entirety by clicking on this link. However, here are some excerpts:

...The form took its shape as a garden was born.
Then man from the dust came reflecting 
All goodness and beauty and life,
But he lowered his gaze
As he listened to the face of low desires.

...What this man has done,
it all extends to you...

The voice came and swords blocked the garden.
None could return with their lives.
A curse there was placed upon every man to face
For all of time...

Then the perfect son of man
Took the place the voice had planned
Since the garden and before
He took the swords and cursed the grave...

...What this man has done,
It all extends to you...

You can check out the song on YouTube or your other favorite outlet.

The Long: 

Ms. Brandes recently discovered this song and shared it on her Facebook page. I was intrigued at first, then hooked once I read the lyrics to many of the band's songs. In addition to having some thought provoking lyrics with interesting twists, they also make references to The Chronicles of Narnia. Furthermore, I suspect that their band name is a salute to The Lord of the Rings. What's not to love?

I chose to review the song that initially got me hooked on the Gray Havens, "This My Soul", because of its unique perspective on the fall and redemption of mankind. I absolutely loved how it tied in the fall, the curse, and redemption into one song with similar imagery. 

The chorus, which largely hinges on the phrase "What this man has done, it all extends to you", reminds me of Romans 5: 18. The ESV reads: "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men."

Yet, in spite of telling the story of salvation, this song doesn't come across as preachy or contrived--it merely presents a good story that is reflective of the larger truth, much as a good fantasy allegory might. I wouldn't pick it for worship, but it makes a good song to listen to while cooking or just chilling in the evening. 

The sound of this band is a little bit more "folksy" or "pop" sounding than I typically go for, but it does make for a nice blend. 

What's your favorite music genre?

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!