Christ's Glory, Not Mine

by science fiction author Andrea J. Graham

Review of Abiding Darkness (Black or White Chronicles)

Speaking of race issues, next week, the CFBA is touring Wedgewood Gray, Book two of the Black or White Chronicles. Normally, it’s not a good idea to jump into the middle of a series, and since the author kindly went the extra mile and sent me a copy of Book one as well, I thought I’d start at the beginning, or namely, with Abiding Darkness.

Abiding Darkness left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, John Aubrey Anderson is a masterful story teller (and feel free to quote me on that if you’re so inclined, Mr. Anderson).

On the other, Anderson is a story teller and hence has not quite mastered the new fangled techniques ever popular nowadays, such as showing the story through the eyes of one character (or at least one character per scene), which if adhered to renders thought tags completely unnecessary (a practice I found inconsistently carried out). Somehow, I suspect Anderson may love the freedom of entering a scene in one head and walking out with an entirely different person, or for that matter, spending to jump inside the dog’s head in the middle of a line of dialogue with no attribution (as happened early in Chapter 26 and made it look like the dog was talking to me), too much to attempt the challenge of strict POV. As a relatively young writer reared in the craft from practically day one in POV writing, I found this aspect a drawback, if not merely a minor nuisance.

Believe me, I had an awful hard time deciding which, as, truthfully, as-is, Anderson already has a strong story on his hands. What the story lacks in the areas of POV and telling, it compensates for it with vivid setting, real characters (with one exception), emotional authenticity, and a strong knack for drawing the reader into a drama that will have most readers reaching for the tissues. Anderson certainly took to the extreme the advice, “be cruel to your characters. Give them a worst fear and throw it at them.” He also got more chuckles out of me than obvious comedic works such as A Pagan’s Nightmare, and as I tend to be a tad sense of humor impaired, that’s quite an accomplishment.

*warning plot spoiler*

Really, on this level, the big issue I had was the conversion of one character came to abrupt for me. Perhaps I missed something. It just seemed the heroine’s young man went from atheist to believer over night, actually, in a matter of minutes. Perhaps it could happen, I’m sure Anderson was trying to make a point, it’s the Lord that draws men to Himself, not merely our fine arguments, but it would have been nice to see the Lord working on Him. It’s true almost universally that it’s emotional issues that most hinder us, but I think Anderson may be underestimating the need certain personality types have to come to a logical understanding of what we like to call the apologetics of the faith. I’d suspect a doctorate of philosophy student would fall in this category.

*end plot spoiler*

Otherwise, I had just a couple minor things, the passage of time could be choppy at times, for instance five years passed by in what had seemed to me like a few days or months at most, and the book started as a three-way best friends story and diverted attention a third of the way in to just Missy, it would have been nice, personally, to have heard from her brother more.

On a theological level, the story is as sound as you can expect a spiritual warfare novel to be, though it might have had more impact if he’d showed a tad more trepidation about allowing his characters to spout theological clichés. Still, credit is due him here, as he takes on territory Peretti previously owned and may have actually exceeded him in terms of realistic portrayal, as Anderson never quite succumbed to the pressure to give us the impression the devils could possibly win this battle, even if the demons were characteristically convinced they could win the battle, and too accepting for my tastes of the inevitability of their losing the war.

Don’t let any of this criticism fool you, addressing these issues would have improved the craftsmanship, but Abiding Darkness is already a strong, emotionally gripping tale, one the reader half my brain (versus the editor half) enjoyed immensely. It left me eager to read the book I’m supposed to be reviewing and hadn’t found time to read yet as of Monday night. I didn’t just tear through the 330+ pages in a little over two days because I have a deadline breathing down my neck, either. I’d have eaten it up regardless, I assure you. If you find appealing either fifties-era stories that bring to chilling life the Jim Crow days of the South, or spiritual warfare novels, I’d wager you’d enjoy Abiding Darkness as well, however flawed it may be.