Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lutheran Book Review: Fiction



Clark, Lisa M. The Messengers: Discovered. St. Louis: Concordia, 2016. 346 Pages. Paper/Kindle. (pdf review copy received.) $12.99. http://www.cph.org/p-29552-the-messengers-discovered.aspx

Flint, Eric, editor. Grantville Gazette VI (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2012. eARC. $6.96. http://www.baen.com/ (N)

Flint, Eric, editor. Grantville Gazette VII (Ring of Fire). Riverdale, NY: Baen, 2016. eARC. $9.99. http://www.baen.com/ (N)

Offord, Kerryn and Rick Boatright. 1636: The Chronicles of Dr. Gribbleflotz (Ring of Fire). Baen, 2016. 528 Pages.  eARC review copy received. Paperback available.  http://www.baen.com/


We now turn to fiction. All of our selections demand some suspension of disbelief. Our later titles take place in a 1630's Germany influenced by Americans (with knowledge and technology) transplanted from the year 2000. Our first title sends us into a dystopian near-future where the Church is underground and Bibles are virtually non-existent.


The Message worth dying for . . .

The government tells fifteen-year-old Simon Clay everything he needs to know. Except what really happened to his mom. And why no one can go out at night. And why the Darkness is so dangerous.

By day, Simon pushes against every boundary there is. And by night, secret visitors and hidden messages make him question everything his life entails.

There’s a truth out there to be discovered, a truth the government will stop at nothing to stamp out. Join Simon and the Messengers as they risk their lives to protect it.


(Publisher's website)

As a pastor, I am sometimes asked about the latest in young adult dystopian fiction. I read, give my assessment, and then often have to move on to reading the next one. Most have no mention of a god other than the State. Their worldviews are genuinely depressing. Kids killing kids for entertainment. Factions at one another's throats. Absurd athletic challenges. This is different. And I am personally acquainted with the author. I knew she wrote hymns and an Arch book, but I was pleasantly surprised by her first published fiction title.

This title is likely the first in a Messengers universe. Imagine a small micro-country in the aftermath of the United States of America. Christians are underground. Much of worship and catechesis is done by memory. Pastors are rare. The government actively persecutes the remnants of Christianity it can find. Simon learns about the Messengers. They look for and help preserve Bible passages. I don't wish to share more in order to preserve a spoiler-free review.

This novel is catechetical and liturgical. I am still a little confused by a stadium scene and its aftermath near the end, yet I am confident that the sequel will help clear things up.

I expect one. And I look forward to reading it.


After the following intros, I'll give my assessment of two volumes of the Grantville Gazzette together.

The sixth rollicking anthology of tales set in Eric Flint’s phenomenal New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire universe—all selected and edited by Flint. A cosmic accident sets the modern West Virginia town of Grantville down in war-torn seventeenth century Europe. It will take all the gumption of the resourceful, freedom-loving up-timers to find a way to flourish in the mad and bloody birth of the Renaissance.

The sixth rollicking, thought-provoking anthology of tales set in Eric Flint’s phenomenal New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire series—all inspired and edited by the creator himself, Eric Flint. A cosmic accident sets the modern West Virginia town of Grantville down in war-torn seventeenth century Europe. It will take all the gumption of the resourceful, freedom-loving up-timers to find a way to flourish in the mad and bloody beginning of the Renaissance. Are they up for it?  You bet they are.

Edited by Eric Flint, and inspired by his now-legendary 1632, this is the fun stuff that fills in the pieces of the Ring of Fire political, social and cultural puzzle as supporting characters we meet in the novels get their own lives, loves and life-changing stories. The future and democracy have arrived with a bang.

The seventh anthology of tales set in Eric Flint’s phenomenal Ring of Fire universe—all selected and edited by Flint.

A cosmic accident sets the modern West Virginia town of Grantville down in war-torn seventeenth century Europe. It will take all the gumption of the resourceful, freedom-loving up-timers to find a way to flourish in the mad and bloody end period of the Renaissance. Are they up for it? You bet they are.

Edited by Eric Flint, and inspired by his now-legendary 1632, this is the fun stuff that fills in the pieces of the Ring of Fire political, social and cultural puzzle as supporting characters we meet in the novels get their own lives, loves and life-changing stories. The future and democracy have arrived with a bang.
I understand the confusion some of you face after having read these introductions. We've come a long way since the original novel called 1632. What keeps me hooked are the continuing characters and an expanding universe. What would happen if Americans with year-2000-technology ended up in 1632 Germany? Personally, I'm most interested in the Lutherans I get to read about. I'll never forget how Concordia Triglotta showed up in what most consider science fiction. I keep coming back for the political intrigue, the stories about music and the interaction among Christian groups, and to learn what is happening in the Americas.

For some reason I resonated more with the selections of volume six than those of volume seven. Perhaps it was the language. Perhaps it was the variety of content. It definitely was my reaction to the agendas of some of the contributing authors.


Featured in some of the short stories above, Dr. Gribbleflotz now gets his own volume:




A sparkling addition to the multiple New York Times best-selling Ring of Fire alternate history series created by Eric Flint. An alchemist of the 17th century confronts modern science with often amusing results.

Phillip Theophrastus Gribbleflotz, the world's greatest alchemist and a great-grandson of Paracelsus—and a Bombast on his mother's side—was a man history had forgotten. But when the town of Grantville was transported by a cosmic accident from modern West Virginia to central Germany in the early seventeenth century, he got a second chance at fame and fortune.

The world's greatest alchemist does not make household goods. But with suitable enticements Gribbleflotz is persuaded to make baking soda and then baking powder so that the time-displaced Americans can continue to enjoy such culinary classics as biscuits and gravy. Applying his superb grasp of the principles of alchemy to the muddled and confused notions the Americans have concerning what they call “chemistry,” Gribbleflotz leaves obscurity behind.

In his relentless search for a way to invigorate the quinta essential of the human humors, Gribbleflotz plays a central role in jump-starting the seventeenth century’s new chemical and marital aids industries—and pioneering such critical fields of human knowledge as pyramidology and aura imaging. These are his chronicles.
It's difficult for me to assess the chronicles as a whole. I want to cheer for an entrepreneur unlike any elsewhere in the 1632 universe. At the same time, I recoil at his pseudo-science and profiteering.

Given all that, there is much of the world developing in this new 1636 that will become increasingly uncomfortable to those who came from year-2000 West Virginia. I see this volume as an attempt to show us what the 1632 universe will look like in a generation, say in the year 1660. One will see lives saved, technology, politics, and war develop in unpredictable ways

Dr. G. is just one of the countless "downtime" Amideutsch-speaking people trying to cope with a world infused with nearly four centuries of art, science, and thought all at once.

Fiction helps me reflect on my world by letting me experience another for a time. I appreciate that kind of affordable vacation and especially look forward to returning home after visiting dystopia.



Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Education Chairman and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. He is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.