Friday, December 16, 2005

A hack attempt at a book review . . .

Up until a few weeks ago, my choice for favorite book of the year would have been a no brainer – The Shaping of Things to Come by Frost and Hirsch. Outstanding thinking, crystal clear illustrative metaphors, and strong arguments. But then on a relative whim, I picked up Anne Rice’s Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. Yes, Anne Rice, the vampire lady. This new novel is the first in what will be a new series on the life of Christ.

I’ll try not to spoil too many details here, because, really what you need to do is e-mail Bill over at Bean Books and order a copy for yourself. Basically, the book is written in the first person – the story is told by a seven and eight year old Jesus. It begins in Alexandria, Egypt and details his family’s move back to Nazareth after the death of Herod. We see the boy Messiah struggling with his identity, which he hasn’t been told about, and yet he senses that something is very different about him.

One of the big reasons that I enjoyed this book so much didn’t really hit me until I was about three-quarters of the way through it. It’s a nice story, imaginative, but not fanciful. But here’s the deal – it is completely believable, almost too believable, in the sense that so many of the details of time and culture seemed pretty mundane to me. But then I realized that the reason things appear mundane is that the author got the culture and the context of the story right. I’ve become so familiar with the biblical texts and cultural descriptions that this story fell right into place. I realized that this was a deceptive sort of “falling right into place,” though. It took serious work for Rice to develop such a “mundane” and believable story.

After I came to this thought, I began reading things more carefully – the nuance of the descriptions of buildings, and familial circles, and Temple worship. As I continued, I kept thinking over and over, “Anne Rice must have read N.T. Wright in her research.”

At the end of the book, there’s a somewhat lengthy Author’s Note, in which Rice describes her journey of faith. Truthfully, this little section is worth the price of the book. I saw that it was there early on, but disciplined myself not to read it until after I had completed the novel – because after all, isn’t that why she put it at the end instead of the beginning? Well, my question was answered – she did in fact read and learn from N.T. Wright . . . as well as many, many others (heck, she even credits D.A. Carson!). Her level of scholarship in preparing this book is truly impressive. And the conclusions she comes to after having read a full range of opinion on scripture and its implications.

I don’t read many novels (do McLaren’s New Kind of Christian books count as novels?), so I’m really not qualified to give a credible literary opinion. Also, I guess I should mention that I’ve not read any of Anne Rice’s prior 25 or so books. But this story is interesting and compelling. It comes to a climax at just the right time and place. And true to its serial nature, it leaves you wanting more. I don’t know what Rice’s intended publishing schedule is, but I will definitely follow this one.

posted by Steve at 3:42 PM
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Blogger Bill Bean commented at 11:44 AM~  

So far everyone I know who has read it has liked it. The lady behind the desk at the gym was disapointed to think Anne wouldn't be writing anymore more vampire books.

Here's what a friend of mine had to say, he also said the Afterword was worth the price of the book.

Anonymous commented at 3:30 PM~  

Well, I was very simply blown away by your review of Christ the Lord. Because my intention was to make this story utterly believable. That was the idea: to say, look, this is what we believe; well then, how did it go down moment to moment, week to week? I thank you for recording your thoughts in response to it. I'm off the Holy Land and then plunging into the second book. I come out of this experience of publishing this book amazed that so many people now want to talk about God and will not be stopped from doing it. They're hungry for Christian films and art, yet something strangles the media on this. Well, thanks again for your comments. May you have a blessed new year. Anne Rice.

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I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me:

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

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