Microview: “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers

daystar-tyersDaystar concludes the Firebird series (see my review of the Trilogy here). There will be SPOILERS in this microview.

For better or for worse, Daystar can fairly accurately be called a science fiction retelling of the biblical Gospels.

For better: as someone who is, I think, fairly familiar with the Gospels, this re-telling brought forward aspects of the Gospels themselves which are often overlooked. Moreover, the science fiction perspective is never compromised for the sake of trying to make a point. Instead, Daystar fits perfectly well into the universe Tyers has built up in the previous books and feels like an epic culmination of all that has come before.

For worse: the fact that the story does emulate in many ways the story of Jesus means that some readers may be turned off by it.

One other minor problem with the book is that the action at times is not sustained. I am not saying I need action 100% of the time, but there are large swathes of just conversations in this book that may have been better broken up with some more action.

The best part of the book is that, as I noted before, the source material and science fiction aspects are never compromised simply for the sake of trying to make something fit. The narrative is powerful and stands on its own, rather than relying on background knowledge to fill it in. That said, the background knowledge is helpful and leads to some interesting comparisons of parallels. These comparisons and other worldview issues are brought up throughout the book as questions of human nature, freedom and determinism, materialism, and more are all brought up and considered. These different questions are considered from different philosophical backgrounds as well, with the view of the Collegium being a mind-working combination of Platonism, Gnosticism, and materialism.

But again, these themes never are forced upon the readers. They always feel like a natural outworking of the narrative itself. And that narrative is extremely solid. The world Tyers has built feels genuine and massive, yet she ably focuses in on one facet of it and how one cog can turn the entire machine.

Set in context of the whole series, Daystar simply is phenomenal. All told, Kathy Tyers has really given readers a treat. I can’t help but think what an achievement this is as a conclusion to a series. It is an excellent work.

The Good

+Awesome re-exploration of the concept of Messiah
+Good action
+Broad but interesting cast of characters
+World feels genuinely massive and with ancient roots
+Great re-envisioning of parables
+Intriguing worldview questions

The Bad

-Fairly explicit emulation of Christian story will turn off some readers
-Not enough action at some points

The Verdict

Grade: A

A constantly intriguing look at an alternate universe Messiah, Daystar wraps up the Firebird series remarkably well. I think it will go down in my memory as one of my favorite books. See my other site for a look at many of the worldview themes in the book.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers– I reflect on a number of worldview issues that Tyers brings up in the concluding parts of the Firebird saga.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kathy Tyers, Daystar (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2012).

SDG.

Book Reviews: “The Neanderthal Parallax” – Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids by Robert Sawyer

neanderthal-sawyerI recently read Robert Sawyer’s Trilogy “The Neanderthal Parallax,” made up of Hominids, Humans, and Hybrids. I have enjoyed Sawyer’s work in the past and dove into these books with great anticipation. How did they fare? Let’s find out! There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

I’ll not summarize the whole plot (see Wikipedia for more), but the basic outline is as follows: A portal is opened between our world an alternative world in which the Neanderthals thrived and we went extinct. As the two worlds interact, it is discovered that the Neanderthals largely remained a kind of hunter-gatherer society and developed a completely different culture than humans in our world did. The two worlds collide as people from our world see the Neanderthals as a challenge to our ways of life, and various issues related to religion and ethical issues come to the forefront. Ultimately, Ponter Boddit, the first Neanderthal to cross into our world, and Mary Vaughan, a woman from our world fall in love and decide to have a hybrid child. This, after an attempt to exterminate the Neanderthals goes awry and instead releases a deadly plague that prevents any males from our world crossing over to the Neanderthal side. The door is left open to the reader to imagine what comes next.

The culture Sawyer created for the Neanderthals is extremely deep and complex. I’d have to say it is one of the more interesting and unique worlds I’ve read. The male and female Neanderthals live largely separate lives until they come together for 4 days each month. This is to control population and also provide time for other cultural developments. Each Neanderthal has specific contributions they make to the society. The Neanderthals all wear “Companions” that record everything they do and say, which means there is no way to get away with crime, get lost, etc. They have also actively controlled their genetic lineage and weeded out traits they find detrimental. Neanderthals often have both a man-mate and a woman-mate regardless of their gender. This is to give them companionship both when they are with their own gender and when the genders intermix. All of this is just the beginnings of explaining the world Sawyer created in the novels, which is extremely interesting.

The premise is also great, because it’s one of those “what-ifs” that I feel we all wonder about from time to time. This premise touches off the plot, which traces what might happen if we ran into a group of people very similar to us, yet with profound differences. Sawyer also clearly put a lot of time and effort into researching and inventing the science and technologies in the book. It feels like many of these are just within our reach if we could just cross certain thresholds to create them.

There are some serious difficulties with the books, however. First, the intriguing Neanderthal society is largely used as a Utopia by which we might contrast the failings that have occurred in our world with violence, the environment, and the like. Although this can be a useful plot device, it makes the whole thing feel a bit contrived and much more simplistic than interaction with such a complex society should have been. Sure, there are moral questions about eugenics and the like, but overall even those are largely brushed off as just another aspect of an apparently perfect society.

The trilogy has a few explicit scenes, and the one in which Mary and Ponter initially “get involved” is particularly explicit. I’m not a fan of such graphic detail being portrayed, and felt that the scenes were largely unnecessary to the plot and were very uncomfortable overall. Sawyer also clearly tried to put forward a kind of women’s rights agenda alongside the other issues raised (gun control, environmental issues, and the like), but despite seemingly trying to advocate for women’s rights, I think he largely failed here. Mary is raped early in the trilogy, and she has to deal with the various feelings that come with it. But ultimately, the rape is just another plot device to make other plot threads meet. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think that such an act of violence should not be used instrumentally. Moreover, it was jarring how casually the scene was portrayed. There never seemed to be a strong emotional content to trying to get the reader to empathize either; rather than focusing on the great evil of such an act, it was more about Mary’s subjective response. Of course, this is probably at least in part because Sawyer had no basis for objectivity in the novels.

The greatest difficulty in the book is the continual misrepresentation of Christianity in particular and faith in general. Mary Vaughan is put forward as a Roman Catholic who allegedly presents the best defenses Christianity has to offer, but not only is she questionably Roman Catholic (can someone claim that title if they reject the doctrine of original sin and their Church’s teachings on abortion, birth control, and the like?), but the “defenses” offered are quite weak and poorly presented. Sawyer’s has the Neanderthals teach an alternative to Big Bang cosmology which allegedly undermines Christian belief in a universe with a beginning, but apparently fails to realize that for centuries Christians also believed and affirmed an eternal universe (see Aquinas, for example). The amount of care and research put into presenting the science in the novels is not evidenced in the representation of faith. In fact, at times the books read like thinly-veiled attacks on Christianity and belief in general.

Overall, the books were a rather big disappointment for me. The complexity of the invented Neanderthal culture is never fully cashed in,  the research and care put into the science in the book doesn’t carry into other areas, and the moral issues raised find no objective criteria for arbitration. It’s a decent sci-fi plot with some great imagination grounding it, but the baggage that comes with it makes it very difficult to recommend.

The Good 

+Intriguing plot
+Great premise
+Complex, amazingly deep culture invented for the Neanderthals
+Clearly lots of research behind science and invented science in books

The Bad

-Little research or insight into issues of faith
-Constantly misrepresents or fails to adequately present Christianity and other faiths
-Unnecessarily explicit sexual scenes
-Overly simplistic Utopia vs. Reality
-Seems to falter on its issues of women’s rights, despite clearly attempting to emphasize them

The Verdict

Grade: C- “A solid plot can’t salvage what seems to be a thinly-disguised assault on faith of all kinds and overly simplistic comparisons.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Aliens that believe in God: The theological speculations in Robert Sawyer’s “Calculating God”– I write about a different Robert Sawyer book that I did enjoy quite a bit, Calculating God. I even wrote a second post discussing abortion, fundamentalism, and other issues the book raised.

SDG.

Microview: “Wind and Shadow” by Kathy Tyers

ws-tyersWind and Shadow is the continuation of the Firebird series (see my review of the Trilogy here) and follows the story of Wind and her struggle to survive in a changing world.

Wind is a descendant of the Shuhr, a people group that was a major threat to the stability and survival of humanity just thirty years before. She walks the line as a diplomat between the people of Mikuhr and the Federation which wants to make sure they never pose a threat again. Meanwhile, a plot is hatching to bring the Shuhr back into prominence and an evil Shadow has descended upon Kiel, a priest of the Sentinels–the people that the Shuhr have historically wanted to destroy.

There are a few pacing issues in the story which are largely due to some lengthy portions with little action. This is a bit surprising given how action-packed the premise is. That’s not to say there is no action–it is there aplenty–but it just isn’t as interlaced through the plot as it perhaps could have been to keep it moving.

The interplay between Wind and Kinnor Caldwell is interesting and Tyers once more does an excellent job potraying the difficulties of interacting among different faith backgrounds. Moreover, the worldview issues Tyers raises through Wind–such as loyalty to one’s own society, political intrigue, justification of genocide, and more–are of great interest.

As in the previous books in the series, the world itself–Mikuhr–feels fully realized with good descriptions and background. It feels like a world and not just a backdrop.

Wind and Shadow is a good sequel which isn’t quite as good as the Trilogy it follows. That said, its different tone and decided focus on worldview questions makes it a very worthy entry and interesting read.

The Good

+Lots of worldview questions are raised
+High stakes in a believable context
+Solid look at human nature
+Setting feels well-developed

The Bad

-At times difficult to follow the cast
-Not enough action to sustain the pace of the plot

The Verdict

Grade: B+

It doesn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of its predecessors, but Wind and Shadow is a worthy successor with much to commend it.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Enter [Science] Fictional Messiah- “Wind and Shadow” and “Daystar” by Kathy Tyers– I reflect on a number of worldview issues that Tyers brings up in the concluding parts of the Firebird saga.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kathy Tyers, Wind and Shadow (Colorado Springs, CO: Marcher Lord Press [Now Enclave], 2011).

SDG.

Microview: “Eternity Falls” by Kirk Outerbridge

efalls-outerbridgeEternity Falls by Kirk Outerbridge is a cyberpunk thriller with quite a bit of depth and insight. There will be some minor SPOILERS in this microview.

Rick Macey is a PI contracted to help find out whether there was something untoward in the death of a woman who’d received the Miracle Treatment–something which should have made it impossible for her to have died of natural causes. In the process of the investigation, he finds himself thrust into a struggle of deep import both in his personal life and to the world at large.

Alongside Sheila Dunn, a prominent executive for the company that makes the Miracle Treatment, he dives into a stirring adventure that will leave readers wonderfully breathless. There are themes of religious extremism and violence, mystery, questions about human nature, and action throughout.

A prominent theme throughout the book is that of faith (or lack thereof). Macey himself struggles with his own deconversion in a world in which belief in deity seems absurd. When confronted with someone else who is a firm believer, the book takes another surprising turn and the moral and theological questions it raises are remarkably interesting. There were several moments I was at the edge of my seat, wondering which direction Macey might go on questions that are of real life import for persons of faith.

Outerbridge writes great action scenes as well, and a climactic conflict is particularly page-turning. Not all authors do possess a  gift for making fights interesting, but Outerbridge succeeds here in a big way.

Two downsides in the book are worth mentioning. First, there are a few moments in which gender stereotypes are unfortunately perpetuated. Macey, at one point, complains inwardly about “how quickly their [women’s] feelings got hurt…” (87). Moments like this are few and far between, and may simply be blamed on a kind of stereotype in Macey’s own head rather than something Outerbridge puts forward, but they are still unfortunate. Second, the technology, at times, is not sufficiently explained. Of course with anything sci-fi, there will be suspension of disbelief, but too often it seems that something is “hacked” into or somehow disabled without any description of just how this might have been accomplished. This problem is made more evident by the times Outerbridge does offer such descriptions, because they are quite good and mesh well with the expectations for cyberpunk.

Overall, Outerbridge seems to have hit gold with Eternity Falls, and this reader, for one, will seek out his other works.

The Good

+ Great genre mix of cyberpunk, action, and detective drama
+ Fantastic action
+ Genuinely insightful moral discussions…
+ …paired with great reflections on faith

The Bad

– Some gender stereotypes perpetuated
– Some of the technology could have used more description

The Verdict

Grade: A

Kirk Outerbridge’s Eternity Falls is a unquestionably fun romp on a journey of mystery, faith, and exploration of the human psyche.

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Microview– Read more microviews to discover more materials to experience! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kirk Outerbridge, Eternity Falls (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

 

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 3 “The Survivors” and “Who Watches the Watchers”

Tea good. House good. Worf pleased.

Tea good. House good. Worf pleased.

I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.

“The Survivors”

Plot

A settlement of 11,000 people is destroyed but for one household. The crew of the Enterprise attempts to figure out why they were spared, while being chased around the system by an angry ship. Meanwhile, Troi experiences mental trauma as a song continues to play. Picard eventually figures out the ship (and song) are caused by the man on the surface who is an extremely powerful being. That being reveals himself, heals Troi, and admits to killing off an entire species because of what they did to the colony. Picard concludes the being is to be left alone.

Commentary

This is one of the more memorable episodes so far in TNG. It starts off very slowly, but eventually the seeds of mystery planted in the beginning come to fruition. The plot keeps viewers guessing throughout, but not in a way that is ever obvious. Yes, it’s clear that the evil ship has a connection to the couple, but viewers have to reason alongside Picard in order to try to figure it out. It’s a mystery which keeps viewers guessing until the end. It is unfortunate that the episode feels so slow. It’s not bad at all, but the whole thing just lacks the kind of pacing that the greatest episodes of TNG are able to muster.

Worf’s “I like gall” line was great, but his “Good tea. Nice house.” one-off was better. He’s a great character so far for these one-liners, but I can’t wait to see him develop more as a character.

Picard’s moralizing is interesting, and leads to a number of questions: why could not such a being be punished?; how could this be seen in any way as justice (as Picard possibly implies)?; is there a punishment which could be meted out upon a such a being? These and other questions spring to mind, but “The Survivors” leaves them unanswered at the end, allowing viewers to muse upon them as the Enterprise flies off to another adventure. It doesn’t feel unsatisfying; rather, it calls for reflection in the way that the best episodes of TNG do.

Overall, a very solid episode marred by a fairly slow pace.

Grade: B+ “It’s not a thriller, but it stays interesting–and mysterious–throughout.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was slow to get started but ultimately the plot was quite compelling.”

“Who Watches the Watchers”

Plot

A Starfleet anthropology site is seen by the locals when a hologram projector fails, leading to the belief that Picard is deity. Troi is a captive and her life is in danger as the locals attempt to please their re-discovered belief in the “Overseer.” Ultimately, Picard reasons one of the proto-Vulcans into unbelief and convinces the rest that he is not a deity. They part ways, but have learned more about the broader universe.

Commentary

There is much to love in “Who watches…” First, I haven’t commented on the music in the series yet, but this episode had some pretty solid tracks. At some points they got overbearing/repetitive, but it is the first episode I actually noticed the music in, and it was a good thing overall. Second, the concept of Starfleet having little observation posts all over the place is compelling and interesting, and I remember my childhood wonder at the fact that they’d be there in the midst of discovering. Third, the overall plot is pretty solid.

Unfortunately, the episode isn’t all great. The main difficulty is the constant theme of “religion is for idiots.” On a blog with the title “Eclectic Theist” it should be no surprise that I think this is bunk. Picard emphasized that getting beyond belief in deity was a major intellectual accomplishment, and I would agree that it is–when one is not believing rationally in the actual God. However, apart from the fact that it is very reasonable to believe in God, the whole episode seemingly relies upon the history of religions school which is largely bunk. That is, it seems to portray simplistic primitive religion (which the people of the planet are retreating towards) as an evolutionary step on a movement beyond totemism and finally into “enlightened” atheism.

Now this history-of-religions is actually false, but it also makes for an episode which continues to operate on a kind of moralistic anti-theistic level which is just grating on the nerves. We can debate the finer points throughout, but that is for a different place (see linked posts). My point regarding this as an episode is that it simply destroys much of the appeal of the plot to have religion reduced to such simplicities that people instantly “devolve” into “primitive” religion when confronted with technology, and that this would seem just obviously true. It’s a weak plot point and, again, rams down our throat the notion that it is true throughout, despite having little empirical evidence and even a great amount of counter-evidence (see, for example, this book).

Okay, I promise I’m getting off the high horse now. The episode has a solid premise and some genuine entertainment value. It’s just brought down by the points mentioned above, along with the difficulty of believing that the situation would in any way develop as it did. To think that a person could move from unbelief to casually choosing to attempt to murder others to please an alleged deity is tough to swallow (and speaks to the what I mentioned above). It makes for one of the episodes where you wonder about what could have been rather than what is actually presented.

Grade: B- “A memorable episode brought down by shoved-in-your-face moralizing.”

Wife’s Grade and Comment: B- “It was a good story, but there were too many unbelievable plot moments.”

Links

J.W. Wartick- Always Have a Reason– Check out my “main site” which talks about philosophy of religion, theology, and Christian apologetics (among other random topics). I love science fiction so that comes up integrated with theology fairly frequently as well. I’d love to have you follow there, too!

Be sure to follow me on Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies/scifi/sports and more!

Star Trek: TNG– For more episode reviews, follow this site and also click this link to read more (scroll down as needed)! Drop me a comment to let me know what you thought!

Sigmund Freud, Totemism, and the origin religion- Who cares about facts?– I discuss some difficulties with the alleged origin and development of religion from totemism to ever-increasing complexity of practice. This belief is commonly associated with Freud, but is there evidence for it?

SDG.

The Fresh Morning: The Run

I don’t like to sleep in. I love the feeling of waking up to the birds chirping outside the window, smelling the freshness of Spring and Summer, and going out for a quick run.

There is something relaxing and even spiritual about running with the morning sun shining and the shining of dew on the grass all around. As I weave my way through the local community, I wave at people and they wave back. Sometimes, we even greet one another as it is someone I have seen more than once.

It’s about the experience: feet pounding on the ground, body striving to go, breath getting harder as I push myself to increasing speeds. But it is about more than that: a way to get out and see nature in the morning, to experience the community, and to recognize that I am part of a larger picture of reality that goes beyond the confines of my normal route to work and back.

I think there is something deeply spiritual to this activity. It is hard to describe and nearly ineffable, but it might be sensed, it is experienced. By placing myself in the context of a larger world, I acknowledge that the world is not centered around myself. There is a feel, a beat to the community as cars move in patterns, people go outside to get their papers, birds chirp in the trees, and squirrels seek ever-more acorns. As part of this world, I realize that it goes beyond myself. I realize that I have become part of…

The Fresh Morning: The Run.

Fiction can change your life. Also, answer me this.

matildaFiction can change your life.  Here, I’m specifically talking about books. It’s actually very easy: you read a book and you yourself are an open book, ready to ingest what the book tells you. You may not do it uncritically, but fiction has a way of catching you unawares.

I also know that fiction can change your life because it has done so for me. It has done so at least three times in major ways. The first was the book Matilda by Roald Dahl, which I consider one of the greatest masterpieces of children’s literature. The way that it changed my life was by opening my mind to a new understanding of the power of books to bring about emotions and love. Matilda was, for me,  almost an avatar of myself in literature. Her love of books mirrored my own. Did I have special powers? No. Was I in a horrible family situation? Absolutely not, my family is and was amazing. What Matilda did for me was to make me realize that the love of books was something almost necessary to my existence. It created in me a desire for fiction that still cannot be satiated. I admit that I have read this book more than any other. I think I have read it easily over 100 times. I used to grab it and a cup of tea (just like Matilda did!) when I was young and sit in my mom’s office at school and read the whole thing.

Another  book that changed my life was C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. I read this when I first began thinking very seriously about faith and Christianity in particular. I remember seeing this book in my dad’s collection and on others’ shelves, but always thought that it was just some boring old book about religion. Who cared? I read the book and realized that religion touches on every aspect of life. Lewis, for me, awakened a love of reading books about Christianity and religion, and he opened the doors for philosophy of religion as well. This fictional book has very much shaped my life in many ways over the past several years. Were it not for this book I probably would not be writing on Christian philosophy and apologetics at my other site.

ben hur bookFinally, the masterful Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace, a book which continues to inspire my vision of life.  Ben Hur is my favorite movie of all time, but I had never read the book. I mean the thing was written in 1880, so I figured that it didn’t really have any relevance today. How wrong I was. The book is simply astonishing in its scope. The tumultuous action, the beauty of romance, the bitterness of revenge, and the trials of faith are all portrayed vividly by Wallace throughout. However, it wasn’t so much the story itself that inspired me, but the fact that it opened my mind up to a whole new reality: books that weren’t written during my lifetime are relevant and awesome. I know, this seems absurd to deny, but it is easy to fall into this feeling that only those things written now are good. The things written in the past are just old fashioned and out of date. Ben-Hur changed that for me. It gripped me throughout and delighted me. I now often read “old” books and find I enjoy them greatly–often more than modern works of fiction and non-fiction.

Now, answer me this: have you ever read a book that has changed your life? If so, which book was it? How did it change your life. Leave me a comment to let me know. I want to know!

On Children

I’m blessed to have a number of friends and family with children. Some of our close friends have very young (2+ yrs old) children, and my godson is about that age as well.

I can’t describe how wonderful it is to watch children.

You see a child and they are utterly reliant upon their parents. They look to them as they play, gaining confidence from encouragement. They investigate everything. EVERYTHING! They are trying to figure things out. They toddle about precariously, and their parents are there to catch them, or to pick them up when they fall; to kiss the “ouches” and “ows” good-bye.

Children also look at their parents in mischief. Just the other day, I saw a child running away with their father’s hat, about to throw it into the water. The father said “Don’t you do that, or I’ll be very angry.” The toddler looked back, torn between obedience and the excitement over seeing what would happen to daddy’s hat if it floated away.

There are few things in life more beautiful than watching a child run to their parent(s) for comfort. They get scared by an animal; they find something which unsettles them; they get injured; their feelings are hurt. When these things happen, they run to mommy or daddy. And their parents have open arms, hugs, and kisses. And after this comfort, they immediately rush into the fray again, ready to confront any fear, danger, or new experience.

I can’t help but think of God and His relationship to us. We are utterly reliant upon God for everything–our food, our rain, our lives, our very existence. Yes, many of these things are provided through means, but ultimately they are from God.

Yet we are like children–we do things just to see if we can get away with them. We mess with “daddy’s things”–the wealth we have been blessed with in countries like the U.S.; our free time; our free will–and see if God’s looking.

Yet ultimately, we are like children in another way. Without God, without our parent, we are lost. We have none to look to for guidance, and we realize that need. It brings to mind something Jesus said,

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:17, NIV)

What is it to “receive the Kingdom of God like a little child? I think it is exactly what it sounds like: to realize that we are utterly reliant upon God. To go running to God in our needs. To realize that with God, we can do anything.

SDG.

——

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Finished the Hunger Games

Everyone’s been talking about it. The Hunger Games. My wife and a friend read them all about a month ago and once I finished the latest sci-fi book I had been working on I picked up the first one. I couldn’t put it down and spent a day and a half finishing them all (with some time in-between for homework). I can’t wait for the movie.

Now I’ve reflected with spoilers in another post (see my “Christian Reflection on the Hunger Games Trilogy“), but for now I want to have a brief spoiler-free discussion. I want to provide a quick bit of overview for readers interested in the books or wondering about getting them for their children.

I think the books are fantastic. They’re well-written and engaging. Readers will be instantly sucked in to the plot and won’t be able to stop until they’ve gone through them all. I do recommend them. Are they the next Harry Potter? In some ways, yes. The books are just as easy to get sucked in to, just as memorable, and have a long term impact. But in some ways, no. First, they’ve all been written, so [speaking for myself and, I suspect, many others] it’s not going to be year after year waiting for each one to come out, anticipating them as they come. They aren’t as long as the Harry Potter books, either, and can be finished even more quickly.

What Suzanne Collins does well, however, is spin a suspenseful tale. The books are written in first person, from the perspective of Katniss Everdeen. The Hunger Games is an annual tournament in which the Capitol collects 2 children from the 12 districts of Panem (the mini-country that has risen from the dust of several wars) and makes them battle to the death. Why? Because about 74 years ago, the districts revolted against the Capitol. The Capitol won and the Hunger Games serve as an annual reminder of the Capitol’s might.  Katniss is, herself, very likable. One can’t help but relate to her as the story continues. The plot of the trilogy follows this story to an epic conclusion, and all I can say is that it is definitely worth readers’ time to pick them up. I have a few concerns, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I’ll link to my spoileriffic reflections when they go live.

I would caution readers who are thinking about getting the books for their kids. They are very, very violent. Children are killed. And it’s never explicit, but some sexual exploitation is acknowledged. These are not books to go and get for your 7-year-old. I do think they might become a new mainstay for high school reading. They are books that will encourage people to read, just as Harry Potter did. And regardless of one’s perspective, I think that getting people reading is always a good thing.

Those are my initial thoughts on the series. Check out my expanded and spoiler-filled reflection here.

What _is_ this place?

Hello to anyone reading this. I’m J.W. Wartick and I’m already a fairly regular blogger over at my main site, Always Have a Reason. That site is itself about philosophy of religion as well as Christian apologetics, theology, and science. But I have way more interests than I could contain on just that blog.

I have a fascination for history, science, and the arts. I love reading sci-fi, fantasy, and history. Paleontology and archaeology fascinate me. I love playing role-playing games and driving franchises in Madden.

In short, I need an outlet for all these things–a place for me to just reflect on my interests that don’t seem to fall under the umbrella of my main site. There is too much going on in this head to keep it all in.

You, the reader, may find this diverting. I know how interesting it can be to explore the random thoughts of people. Hopefully this site will lead you to some new interests, or perhaps you’ll comment and help lead me off to learn about things about which I know little or nothing.

You, the reader, are therefore asked by me, the author, to leave your own reflections on the topics I present here. Or, if you desire, you can just post about other random interests of your own. When I put up a post on the Battle of Midway, you can respond by talking about Gettysburg. That is fine! Please do so!

Finally, readers are entitled to a bit of background about myself if we’re going to have engaging discussions. I’m a Christian theist who loves a good debate. I’m getting an M.A. in Christian Apologetics. Philosophy of religion is my primary interest, but as you read on here you’ll find I have interests all over the place. I’m a devoted Christian who believes that the evidence for Christian theism is quite strong (if you want to read on that, you should check out my main site). You’ll note, then, that theism–indeed, Christian theism–permeates my posts, even when I’m talking about things unrelated to it. I’ll not apologize for that. We all let our worldviews into every aspect of our lives. I hope as you read here you’ll find some questions to ask and, maybe even some answers.