March CSFF Blog Tour Day 2: The Resurrection, by Mike Duran

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.

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.

“Light ‘im up!”

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:

Purchase The Resurrection

Mike Duran’s Website

The CSFF Blog Tour:

Noah Arsenault
Brandon Barr
Red Bissell
Book Reviews By Molly
Keanan Brand
Kathy Brasby
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Melissa Carswell
Jeff Chapman
Christian Fiction Book Reviews
Carol Bruce Collett
Valerie Comer
Karri Compton
Wanda Costinak
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Janey DeMeo
Cynthia Dyer
Tori Greene
Nikole Hahn
Katie Hart
Joleen Howell
Bruce Hennigan
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Emily LaVigne
Shannon McNear
Matt Mikalatos
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Mirtika
Joan Nienhuis
Nissa
John W. Otte
Gavin Patchett
Sarah Sawyer
Andrea Schultz
Tammy Shelnut
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Dave Wilson

>>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.<<

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5 thoughts on “March CSFF Blog Tour Day 2: The Resurrection, by Mike Duran

  1. I notice a plethora of autistic characters lately, but that’s another issue perhaps. I’m not sure the autistic character was necessary in this case. She didn’t do much to push the story forward. Perhaps if she’d made one more appearance it would have solidified her a bit more for me.

    I haven’t read a lot of paranormal so I don’t know the formula. What little I have read, I’d say The Resurrection was more artistically and thoughtfully written.

    1. Hi, Jessica!

      I agree that Mike did a pretty good job of using the familiar tropes of paranormal fiction, and the book shined best where it strayed a bit from the beaten path. I also liked that he kept the larger spiritual forces at work off-stage, so the focus stayed on his main characters and their very human battle.

      He probably could have used Jilly more and to better effect in the story. In my experience, managing those minor characters is a big challenge–they need to be more than a plot device, but you also don’t want them developing so much presence they steal the spotlight from your hero/heroine. In that respect, I thought he did a really good job with Vignette, who had a strong personality, but provided support without being overwhelming.

      I’m not sure what’s up with the explosion of autistic characters. Maybe it’s because diagnosis has improved and the community is more visible these days.

      Fred

    1. Yeah, it’s one of the downsides of being a jaded old guy. Seen-it-all-before-itis. Of course, I can’t speak for Gavin…he could be fifteen, for all I know.

  2. I found your review thoughtful and on target. I agree with you about the “uncanny kid” thing especially, although I didn’t think about it until just now. There were things that bothered me about the book that I couldn’t put my finger on, and I think you may have done it for me. 🙂

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