I admire the fact that Wilson has tackled ideas that might be controversial. In the realm of Christian fiction -- a term with which I am growing more and more discontented, because it seems to imply sermons in fictional form -- are more and more attempts to portray the darker side. Aside from the dreadful tracts by Chick, my first experience with such literature was This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. It caused quite a debate in the churches my family attended. I expect Wilson's work will do the same.
And that's not a bad thing. People need to be stirred on occasion, challenged in their thinking and their beliefs. It is the Christian unafraid of the challenge who is strong in what he believes. He's not unsettled when called upon to examine his faith or his point of view. He can look at matters head-on and not run away or sidestep. He can admit when he's in error, and can extend grace to those who do not have clear understanding. I say all that to say this: Simply because a piece of fiction -- written by a Christian -- incorporates such creatures as vampires does not mean the story is somehow evil.
The Christian fiction I remember from childhood seemed to be all light, and as a result was light, in that it often had very little depth. Nothing truly terrible happened to anyone, justice was always served, and almost everyone "got saved" at the end. It's not news that I loved the work of Lewis and Tolkien, and Peretti was a welcome though spiritually challenging addition. They wrote of a darkness that must be overcome, and of a light that would shame the dark.
How can the light be seen unless there is darkness? What is a candle in the sunlight?
In Field of Blood and Haunt of Jackals, humans do one another harm, the vampiric Akeldama Collectors do much more harm, and they even create a gruesome gallery of sins: the Six, No Seven Things that God hates, taken from the book of Proverbs. They enslave, feed upon, and kill humans who are lead about by their own lusts and anger and willfulness.
I posted this yesterday as a comment on Becky Miller's blog:
I can understand why some Christian readers may not "click" with a story involving vampires. After all -- to my mind -- there's no mythical creature who so resembles Satan as does a vampire: the mind-control, the sucking away of life, the attraction of immortality that blinds one to the repulsive nature of one's existence after accepting that form of immortality.Definitely not the source of a cozy story to read before bedtime.
But where's God in all this evil and darkness? Aside from a glance or two toward prayer, and several mentions of the Nazarene and His blood, God doesn't seem to be a major player in the story. I understand Wilson not wanting to bludgeon his readers with a sermon or excessive scripture, but the Collectors seem to have more faith in God as their enemy than the humans have faith in God as their friend. (For a clear discourse on the presence or absence of the salvation message in Haunt of Jackals, click here to read the entry on Rachel Starr Thomson's blog.)
Off that topic and onto something else that bugged me: the uncomfortable level of apparent flirtation between Gina and Cal, daughter and father. Yeah, before she knew who he really was, she wondered about him as a possible romantic problem, especially since she was married to Jed and still kept remembering Teo, a childhood sweetheart. Such thoughts were excusable in the first book, but in the second? Things just got a little too weird for me. I never really did buy the secrecy -- why Cal couldn't tell Gina sooner that he was her father -- so instead of thinking it funny when he gets up in Teo's face at the hostel and defends Gina's honor, I cringed. And cringed again when she just assumes a stranger at the museum is hitting on her, and he responds in kind, but it turns out to be Cal in disguise. That just felt "off".
Also, there are some continuity issues that might not have bothered other readers but kinda skritched at the back of my brain. For instance, after escaping Collectors, Gina goes to a hotel where the Tomorrow's Hope orphans and their chaperones are expected to arrive. Would a busload of frightened orphans keep to their schedule even though one of their number has just been brutally killed, and another has gone missing with the bus driver after fending off a fearsome attack? And what about Gina showing up at Bran Castle after fighting off a demon-possessed boar? No coat's gonna cover the bloody mess, the tangled hair, or the stench of boar, especially after the critter nigh swallowed her arm.
Despite my less-than-stellar review of the Jerusalem's Undead series so far, I'm glad it's out there, being read and causing discussion. I'm glad Wilson had the guts to write it, and that Nelson had the guts to publish it. I hope unexpected good things happen as a result.
And that's all I have to say about that.
For other points of view, click here for a list of the remaining stops on the blog tour.