Book Review: “Never to Live” by Just B. Jordan

ntl-jordanNever to Live is madness. The main character, Elwyn, is tortured into madness after she agrees to try to stop an ancient evil. The book then follows Elwyn and a cast of characters on an adventure which seems as disjointed as Elwyn’s mind. There will be SPOILERS below.

Terms are introduced with little-to-no definitions anywhere in the book. Things like “loxasta” are mentioned but their role is never clearly defined nor is there ever enough description to know what they might be motivated by. Locales are as bare bones as possible, often with no description so that it comes as a surprise when someone steps out from behind a tree (after all, how did we know trees were here when there was no description?). Characters similarly have almost no detail, with readers left to try to fill in the pieces of their motivations, descriptions, and backgrounds. All of this is a bit surprising in a book that comes close to 700 pages.

What is done with those 700 pages? The first 100-200 pages are largely a trip through the mad mind wanderings of the main character, Elwyn. There’s not enough detail to explain why these memories are chosen or what context they might have or how, exactly, the torture is happening or even really for what reason. Yes, hints are dropped, but they never meld together to form anything coherent. The next 400+ pages are basically just following the set of characters–largely without motivations–through a journey through the land. During this journey, one character discovers the ability to turn into a dragon, another starts sprouting roots (!), others discuss their thoughts with a demonic character, a dragon shows up, a were-panther follows Elwyn around (why?), and more.

All of this makes sense, in a way, because Never to Live never sets ground rules for how the world works. There are no apparent restrictions on the possible, so having characters randomly start turning into a plant only to reveal later a link between that and a covenant with the dryads–another faction without any background (along with the loxasta, the “kings”–apparently some malicious rulers of some land, though it’s never entirely sure which land where or why, etc.)–seems almost reasonable. The problem is that because there seem to be virtually no rules, no descriptions, and no background, the book never gets its feet grounded in a reality that readers can relate to. It seems entirely disjointed throughout, with little reason to care about what’s happening.

Even when the story starts to wrap up (page 600 and following), some threads are tied, but completely new open-ended thoughts are introduced, like a horse that apparently was Elwyn’s son the whole time. The ending is probably the best part, but it does little to tie up all the loose ends or even make sense of the world in which the story takes place.

On the plus side, there are some interesting points brought up by a character named Weaver–possibly a God stand-in but it is never clear–regarding theology and philosophy. Moreover, the exploration of self-worth and the concept of reducing a main character to madness is intriguing, it just doesn’t work as portrayed in this book.

Never to Live is a tough read. I re-read multiple sections, even going back and re-reading the introductory chapters a few times after things related to them popped up later in the book. Even after that work dedicated to the book, I am left with the conclusion that it is, unfortunately, a jumbled and faceless outline of a story rather than a complete story on its own.

The Good

+Some intriguing philosophical/theological points
+Interesting premise

The Bad

-Completely incoherent opening
-Characters receive almost no development
-Locales have almost no description to ground them
-Ideas are introduced seemingly at random
-Key terms insufficiently explained
-No motivations for characters

The Verdict

Grade: D

At times incoherent, and on the whole lacking in development, Never to Live is a sometimes tantalizing mess.

I received a review copy of this book from Enclave publishing. I was not influenced or required by the publisher to write any kind of review.

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

Just B. Jordan, Never to Live (Colorado Springs, CO: Enclave, 2009).

SDG.

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!