Tag Archives: Shawn Lamb

Can Fantasy/SciFi Be Christian? by Michael J. Findley

I intended to make this a review of Shawn Lamb’s book All0n, Book 1. Instead it morphed as I wrote it into a personal view of what makes good Christian fantasy/SciFi.

Though I have written fiction, I usually write nonfiction. I read fiction, such as The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, War and Peace, The Lucky Starr series, etc. To be honest, I analyze as I read more than read for enjoyment anymore.

Reader’s Digest is written on the 7th grade reading level. That means that the vocabulary, writing style and sentence structure is easily grasped by anyone with a 7th grade or higher education level. It also limits the content to material easily grasped by an adult with no more than a 7th grade education.

MGM created a firestorm, including lawsuits, when they sponsored a particular band of liquor in a James Bond movie. MGM has openly admitted that the target audience for the James Bond movies starts at 13.

The Flesch-Kincaid scale rates 3 of my blogs at 6.5 (reading grade level) with an ease of reading of 73, 5.3 grade level with 80.5 ease of reading and 10.0 grade level with ease of reading 53.

Allon is a print book, so I only typed in a few paragraphs to get a Flesch-Kincaid scale of 6.0-grade level and ease of reading of 80,7. This puts Allon in the same reading level as the James Bond series, Harry Potter series and most of our blogs. The F-K scale puts it in the same target age group, 13+. Unlike James Bond, in Allon sin is treated as sin and has consequences. Violence, sex, magic and other sins are dealt with, but unlike the Harry Potter Series these sins have correct consequences. In Allon, sin is not mocked nor is it justified as a tool for gaining a greater “moral” victory.

In War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy writes a book with over 300 chapters that covers all of Europe, thousands of characters and dozens of major characters. The first chapter opens in a private reception with half a dozen speakers. The people they talked about were either public figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte or initial introductions to people important later in the story. The Hobbit  opens with Gandalf, Bilbo and a dozen dwarfs, introduced one at a time. The Fellowship of the Ring begins where The Hobbit left off, with Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, and the rest of the hobbits. Once again, the opening introduces a limited number of new characters. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone begins with a husband and wife, two people, and slowly expands from there. James Bond might open with hundreds of soldiers or thousands in a ballroom. But the plot hones in on no more than a half dozen major characters, usually only two or three. Star Wars, like James Bond, begins with either one or two characters and introduces characters with enough time to grasp them. With each of these, more characters are introduced as we become familiar with the existing characters.

Allon opens with two main characters but with an additional one introduced every page throughout the first chapter. There are soldiers, a new language, and an introduction to a fantasy kingdom; complete with geography, nobility and conflicts we know nothing about. I was confused reading War And Peace and Tolstoy used history, people and events I was intimately acquainted with. The style of Allon is interesting, but I am so easily confused.

From Beowulf and Edmund Spenser’s Fairie Queene to C.S. Lewis, fantasy that claims to have any Christian values whatsoever has limited itself. Evil can take any form, because evil is selfish and deceptive. Orcs, dragons, goblins, trolls, ghosts, gnomes, demons, evil or unclean spirits range from mildly troublesome to great powerful evil forces.

But for a spirit to be good, it must in some way glorify God. Spirits such as the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol can be good. Though they are fictional, they are acting on God’s behalf, so we must treat them as some form of angel. If we do not believe they are angels, then are they demons?

For a fantasy to be used by God, it must in some limited way help us to understand good and evil more clearly. Sauron in Lord of the Rings represents Adolph Hitler. He was both an individual and an all-consuming selfish power who destroyed all who opposed him. Both Sauron and Hitler are representations of Satan himself. I see Frodo Bagans not as a Christ figure, but more like Moses or Abraham. They were believers who sacrificed all to obey God. Like all analogies, they are imperfect. In the Fairie Queene, Queen Elizabeth is portrayed by the good Queen Gloriana. But in real life Queen Elizabeth promoted some truth but also had some believers executed.

Beowulf, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Spencer’s The Fairie Queene, the works of Shakespeare, Dickens, Alfred Lord Tennyson, the later works of T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkien all used words, concepts, ideas and morality both directly out of the Bible and based on human traditions which were based on the Bible. JRR Tolkien, the least Christian of this list, used names from both the poetic Edda (old norse) and the prose Edda (Icelandic). Rune script, which Tolkien used for Elvish is a combination of old Italic and Teutonic (Germanic). Elves and Dwarves go back are far as writing itself, in every culture on earth. Elves and Dwarves are usually mischief-makers, and The Hobbit seems to portray them more accurately than the Lord of the Rings. Dwarves and Elves in most folklore seem to be some form of demons similar to gnomes and genies. Hobbits are a variation of Pygmies, a real population group.

Fantasy and science fiction are didactic. They teach. To put it another way, they are sermon illustrations. Like everything else in life, if they do not draw us closer to God, then they drive us apart from God.

A completely made-up culture can be the best possible teaching tool. I used this tool myself. My Space Empire saga is set in a vague point in the future. Every name can mean something, such as Narnia or the Dawntreader. Every place can teach something, such as Paradise. Every action taken by every character is either good or evil. There is no need to explain the mistakes of history. Divine purpose can be revealed in every thought, action or object.

At the same time, a complete self-created culture allows little or no room for errors. “The force” of Star Wars is idolatry, not just a spur of the moment mistake as George Lucas claims. To borrow the National Review slogan, eschew obfuscation! It is not “just entertainment” as Disney claims their movies are. Andy’s empty holster and the armymen without weapons send a powerful message in Toy Story.

I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings while working my way through college. I had no time for them, but they fascinated me, in spite of the many objectionable elements. I avoided the Harry Potter series because it is drowning in objectionable elements. Yet from the beginning, the story and writing style draws me in. The second paragraph of the book, which introduces the Dursleys is great.

“Mr. Dursley was the director of a firm called Grunnings, which made drills. He was a big, beefy man with hardly any neck, although he did have a very large mustache. Mrs. Dursley was thin and blonde and had nearly twice the usual amount of neck, which came in very useful as she spent so much of her time craning over garden fences, spying on the neighbors. The Dursleys had a small son called Dudley and in their opinion there was no finer boy anywhere.”

All three family members are introduced in a brief four-paragraph sentence. They are identified by important, memorable, humorous characteristics. The descriptions are both enlightening and informative. Which is why I stay away from Harry Potter. It is very well written and makes evil very desirable.

Part of what makes Harry Potter desirable for me is the male point of view, even though a woman wrote it. The movies Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail do a good job contrasting the differences between a man’s story and a woman’s story. It is usually a difference in emphasis. Men want action movies, like how many explosions are there? Women want feeling-based movies, like did she get the guy in the end? Pointing out that releasing a lion raised in captivity free into the wild in Born Free is not only a bad idea, but will likely get the lion killed, does not set well with your wife/daughter/date/girlfriend. Even mentioning that fact makes you a cold, heartless brute.

Sleepless In Seattle
“Sam Baldwin: Well I’m not looking for a mail-order bride! I just want somebody I can have a decent conversation with over dinner without it falling down into weepy tears over some movie!
Greg: She’s, as you just saw, very emotional.
Sam Baldwin: Although I cried at the end of “the Dirty Dozen.”
Greg: Who didn’t?
Sam Baldwin: Jim Brown was throwing these hand grenades down these airshafts. And Richard Jaeckel and Lee Marvin [begins to cry]“

Women also love excessive description and adjectives, especially clothing and furnishings. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote for women. Writers such as Charles Dickens, Sir Walter Scott and Sir Alfred Lord Tennyson were paid by the word which pushed them to use excessive adjectives. Even the Jules Verne’s novel Michael Strogoff is heavy with travelogue details, to the delight of female readers.

Shawn Lamb has an audience that loves her books. On the back of Allon Book 1 is an email address and a website where she may be contacted. This is an unusual plus for any author. I recommend contacting her if you have any questions.

This is definitely a woman’s book written by a woman giving a woman’s point of view. That means she is writing for the majority market since more women than men read books and according to USA today women read nine books for every five that men read. However, Allon is a book I was unable to finish.

I forced my way through Stephen Hawking’s book A Brief History of Time, because it is so popular and influential. A Brief History of Time is religious propaganda. It is simply not true. Allon does not claim to be a book of physics. It is a work of fiction, pure plain and simple.

Most of my objections to Allon are strictly male. What is the point of several sentences of detail for each and every person’s clothing, hairstyle and grooming? For a book that has so much of, what seems to me to be superfluous details, important information seems to be missing. Force placements of troops, why people do things (military reasons), who are the Guardians, who are the Shadow Warriors, what is the purpose of the Guardians and the Shadow Warriors? The most important questions to me are “why” questions? Answers to what I believe are important why questions seem to never to come. Personally, I found this to be one of the most frustrating books I ever attempted. I understand it was designed from the beginning as a series and certain questions were deliberately left unanswered to entice readers to continue the series.

As I said, I skipped around and attempted to answer questions without reading the entire book. But to me, the important questions of “Who are the good guys?” “How does this glorify God?” and “Why does this matter?” are never answered.

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Mysteries, Characters and Distractions: A review of Allon by Shawn Lamb

Allon

Allon is the first in a fantasy/allegory series by Shawn Lamb. The biggest mystery is who you can and cannot trust. Lamb presents characters, some only briefly, but startles us with their motives and revelations of good or bad character, and the consequences of their actions. Beware of jumping to conclusions. Some things are predictable but details keep you guessing.

I think my favorite character is Erin. She tries seduction, changing herself, even a very risky personal sacrifice to earn Ellis’s love. Her changing character and motivations are worth the read. (By the way, this seduction is not at all explicit, nor is another seduction scene in the book. There is no objectionable sexual content.)

The writing style and vocabulary are awkward. Sometimes the vocabulary used is plainly, to me, wrong word choices.

One plot incident that I consider pivotal is the point where Ellis’s relationship with Shannan changes. It involves the trust issue I mentioned earlier, and has something to do with a wild boar. But it is only briefly talked about and does not even make it into the action of the book. Shouldn’t that be more important, if it changes their whole relationship?

My second serious objection is to the handling of the Guardians, and it is twofold. Guardians are supernatural beings similar to angels or demons, interesting characters, both the evil and the heroic ones. But this is an allegory about humans and their growth and preparation for service to God. Shannan’s interaction with the Guardians was frequently captivating but these things distracted from the story of Ellis and Shannan. The Guardians steal the focus from the human characters and the main plot time and again.

Some Guardians rebelled against Jor-el, the God-figure in the story, but who did and who didn’t rebel isn’t always clear. Why are Guardians horribly imprisoned, tortured, maimed, even killed in such frequency and detail? If they are not humans, the focus of the story, what is the spiritual purpose for this?

I am not against violence in books, even for younger readers, but I need to understand the reason for the gruesome description of one Guardian’s mutilation during his imprisonment, and the manner of his death. He is portrayed as defiant and heroic in the face of torture, but he confesses to something the author simply does not explain as rebellion. Quite the opposite. This Guardian says in his dying “confession” that he followed the orders of Jor-el. Are all these imprisoned Guardians guilty of rebellion? Can they repent and be “saved”? Other Guardians who become free don’t confess to wrongdoing, at least not clearly enough for me, and I am not a young reader.

I know of no theology that teaches Angels will torture other Angels, no evidence that they fight or die much as we do except for being a little stronger and faster. Lamb insists that they don’t “die,” but we see them wounded and dying over and over. What teaching is this? It’s worse than a distraction, it’s a kind of heresy skewing the whole redemption and growth and preparation for service storyline. What chance is there for these characters we’ve grown to admire and love, who’ve sacrificed and suffered just like the humans? One good stab and poof! They just disappear. Were they saved? Were they lost? We have no idea.

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The Great Pinterest Contest Experiment

This month a group of author friends discovered Pinterest. If you don’t know, it’s a way to share pictures, basically, a digital scrapbook. I have steampunk stuff, cool scenery, Mesopotamian ancient stuff, and books by my husband and I and our author friends. Sometimes people also post links to products you might be interested in buying. It’s kind of like word of mouth in pictures. These are links to sales sites. People can click on my book pictures on Pinterest and go straight to Amazon, and other sales sites, and buy the books.

So an author group I belong to decided to see if we could generate some book sales through Pinterest. Shawn Lamb has a fantasy book series, Allon. We have a whole Pinterest board devoted to Shawn Lamb stuff. Book trailers, banners, dishes made with lamb (I especially recommend the Haggis) , and even a few extras like Princess Bride pins for fun. Please visit the board, if you’re on Pinterest, repin something that catches your eye. Then, leave a comment on the board. At the end of the month we’ll collect the names of the pinner/commentors and Shawn Lamb will have  a random drawing for a free copy of Allon 1.

Back to Books Online has "Allon" listed at number 1. http://www.backtothebooks.net/top-10-list You have a chance to win it here. Repin and leave a comment. http://www.allonbooks.com

http://pinterest.com/gtargirl/win-a-book/

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Review of the Huguenot Sword by Shawn Lamb

I am interested in church history, especially regarding Protestants, and as soon as I saw this book I wanted to read it. I got the Amazon Kindle version on a 99 cent Cyber Monday sale after a heads-up from the author on Goodreads. It deals mostly with young adult characters and includes a number of well-known historical figures. For those who don’t know, Huguenots were Protestants who tried to obtain the right to live as citizens and practice their faith in Catholic France but were severely persecuted, especially under Cardinal Richelieu.

Shawn Lamb has created a great study of how ordinary people look at and practice their beliefs, and how those beliefs affect their own lives and conduct, and their interactions with others. If you like the Three Musketeers, the Scarlet Pimpernell, and Zorro, you will like this story. Adventure, disguises, intrigues, court life, expectations of family, arranged marriage, and elements of romance and temptation all enter into the plot and storyline.

Three young men try to live by their motto, “For Friendship, for Faith, and for Freedom,” while aiding the Huguenot Resistance in France. Shawn Lamb provides plenty of swordfighting, pursuits and escapes, and, most importantly, insight into how young people view faith as they mature and make decisions about what they really believe and how it will shape their conduct.

Though I enjoyed the story and characters very much, I found the book contained some technical imperfections. The author was kind enough to share her process of writing and “vetting” a book and her many years of experience with different ways of bringing a book to print. She graciously promised to take my comments about the book into consideration in her future writing.

So, take it all together, the Huguenot Sword was an exciting, satisfying read, a tribute to faith and its struggles to grow, and an opportunity for me to learn firsthand something about how an author gets a book out of her head and into print, or into my Kindle, in this case.  I gave it four out of five stars on Goodreads and Amazon.

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