So, here’s what I thought of Mike Duran’s The Resurrection…
A Solid Debut: The story is well-written, leads with a creepy, suspenseful hook, and marches at a brisk pace to its conclusion, with a couple of mild twists along the way. Duran gives us likable, human characters we can identify with, and root for, as they battle the evil that has overrun their little community. There are strong themes of courage, self-sacrifice, redemption, and perseverance in the face of powerful opposition and despite personal wounds and shortcomings. Good is rewarded and evil decisively punished, without a sense of preachiness or a forced moral at the end.
There were, however, a couple of things that bothered me. I have to get more specific, so there are spoilers ahead.
Deja Vu All Over Again: As I read through the story, I had the feeling I’d been here before. It’s hard to avoid sounding derivative in paranormal fiction because there’s a sort of formula to it, things that always seem to pop up.
For example, in Duran’s character Jilly, we see the “uncanny child,” a character that’s almost always found in a Stephen King story. The kid has a direct line to the Other Side, and provides key information while freaking out everybody around them. There’s a crippled hero (physically and emotionally). A wise old crone. Diabolical small-town secrets. Cursed ground and haunted artifacts–the list goes on. Other elements are common to Christian novels of this genre, exemplified in Frank Peretti’s thrillers. There’s a failed preacher who’s losing his religion. A rugged, lapsed believer. A lukewarm church, governed by a hard-hearted council. I also saw echoes of H.P. Lovecraft: the power of forbidden knowledge, scientific hubris, ancient pagan gods, and an inter-dimensional gateway to evil.
There’s an emotional resonance to these elements that reinforce our sense of foreboding and mounting horror. They just work. Since everybody uses them, it’s challenging to rise above the genre formula and provide a fresh take on it. Duran succeeds in part, but I was hoping for more.
I Prefer Saran Wrap: Ah, Mr. Cellophane. He was a striking way to get the book rolling, and he only got more interesting as the story progressed. He was also the only visible supernatural character. I would have liked to see more characters and story elements like this that felt unique and intriguing, such as Dr. Beeko, the eccentric forensic specialist, who sadly gets little more than a cameo, though he’s the only person who seems to fully grasp what’s happening in Stonetree.
Mr. Cellophane is a ghost, which is a standard feature of secular paranormal stories, but a little problematical from the standpoint of Christian fiction, because it posits an “in-between state” in the afterlife that is neither Heaven nor Hell nor even Purgatory. It’s a realm in which the departed hover about Earth until whatever holds them in limbo is resolved.
This isn’t the teaching of orthodox Christianity, though Duran provides a rather lengthy defense of the character’s legitimacy from Scripture in an afterword. It’s interesting, though I didn’t find it convincing, or necessary.
Don’t Confuse Me With the Facts: “I can’t throw it all away because something went wrong or something else didn’t make sense. Maybe a little more gullibility–more faith–would do you good.”
I admired Ruby’s steadfast faith in God, but this statement irritated me, and it seemed that its underlying sentiment was repeatedly reinforced. Reverend Clark is impotent against the forces of evil because he relies on his seminary education and logic to comprehend what’s happening. The villain is an uber-intellectual, whose studies in comparative religion lead him inexorably to uber-paganism, and doom. Similarly, anyone who questions the resurrection’s legitimacy or wants to investigate it is portrayed as lacking faith or serving a personal agenda. On the other hand, the Hispanic Catholics who embrace the miracle are portrayed as superstitious idolaters, so it’s a bit of a mixed message.
Faith isn’t gullibility. It’s risky, but it’s not blind. It’s the gift of God, but so is our capacity to think rationally and separate truth from falsehood based on the facts at hand. Faith and reason aren’t mutually exclusive–they should work together. We’re directed to test the spirits and exercise discernment, actions that often get left in the dust as we rush to claim supernatural evidence for our faith.
A couple of times in the story, characters assert that it doesn’t make any difference whether the miracle was genuine or not, so long as it engenders the proper response from people. Certainly, God could use a charlatan’s bogus “signs and wonders” to draw people to Him, but I find this “ends justify the means” approach to the miraculous troubling. I don’t think Duran is advocating this, but I would like to have seen it credibly challenged.
Bottom Line: Mike Duran has written an engaging, character-driven paranormal thriller that should be well-received by fans of the genre. It’s a strong first novel, and I look forward to his next book.
Don’t settle for just one opinion! Check out the other reviews of The Resurrection on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour:
The CSFF Blog Tour:
Book Reviews By Molly
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
CSFF Blog Tour
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
>>This review is based upon a copy of the book provided to me free of charge by the publisher, a courtesy I appreciate, but which does not guarantee my recommendation. I strive to evaluate every book I review purely on its intrinsic merits.<<