Actually, September’s Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Tour is for Marcher Lord Press, a new internet venture headed up by Jeff Gerke‘s (as in agape love rather than mouth agape, though he might prefer “as in Foxy rather than Foxe”- kidding!) But I chose to focus on one of the three titles Marcher Lord Press is opening their doors with, The Personifid Invasion by R. E. Bartlett.
I found the novel both mentally engaging and entertaining, not to mention more balanced on than is typical on such issues. For instance, when a couple feels led to leave their nice safe cave and move into a city full of suffering, the “buyers” are also Christians, without any implied judgment against them for moving there, which is unusual. It is very typical, when someone has seen the heavenly vision and are full of passion and raring to go and fulfill God’s purpose for their lives, they have a hard time comprehending why everyone else doesn’t see the same need, doesn’t feel the same passion, and may even dare to tell other believers, “if you are not a hand like me, you are not of the body.” (See 1 Cor 12, which is Apostle Paul’s take on this subject.)
As Bartlett suggests, it’s true some don’t see what’s really happening because they don’t want to see it, and if she wanted me to get mad when the snotty neighborhood dumped human beings in the garbage for not meeting their standards of perfection, it worked like a charm. That sort of thing infuriates me, but is a natural extension of a culture where babies end up in the garbage.
Likewise, since I myself live in a large city by God’s design (this is His will, not mine, believe me), I share the book’s implied concern about Christians fleeing the cities for suburbia, albeit due to a different vision. We’re losing ground culturally in part due to large numbers of us literally moving away from the fight. However, should we be tempted to condemn everyone who does this, let us remember Paul’s admonition: who are we to judge another man’s servant? We can share our ministry vision and passion and why we feel as we do, but in the end, they’re responsible to God for following the vision He gave them-not ours.
But back to the book. The main meme, naturally, surrounds the personifids of the title, a practice where individuals can exchange the bodies God gave them for man-made android/robot type bodies that can appear like normal human flesh or even a cat or a giant bug. The author, via the Christian characters, rightly identifies this practice as sin, and while speculating it would actually be possible to transfer the soul, makes an excellent case for this leaving them imprisoned in their mechanical shells and demon possessed. The way out of the predicament-absolutely beautiful and biblical if the premise is accepted. Of course, I don’t believe it is possible for all the reasons Steve Rice gave, but will also accept his reasons for suspending disbelief.
The personifid protestors-disturbing. The demons (“Inters”) comments on this will have many nodding, sadly, as much of the church has bought into the ideas they expressed. But the reality ignored is there is a valid reason to believe personifids are not human, but mechanical recreations of a human being who passed on to their eternal reward at the moment of bodily death. The bible would provide Christians with a fool proof method to determine the nature of a personifid, which is actually employed with a robot in the book: ask them to confess Christ. A demon possessed one would profane Christ or otherwise refuse and only by the spirit of Christ can one confess Christ. Which means the believers in the book that allow personifids to convert and such are correct to do so, upon this basis.
Of course, the protesters probably belong to Westboro Baptist Church (Fred Phelps’ “church”) and they sadly do exist and indeed do much harm to us, especially since, in some quarters, all Christian protestors are thought to be like Phelps and so they give a bad name to everyone who seeks to raise public awareness on various fronts, including the issue dearest to my heart, abortion.
Ironically, despite the perceptions too many have, the reality is, prolifers have far more in common with the group of Christians the main characters associate with, including that a number of the group are in fact personifids themselves. One cannot be actively prolife without the gift of mercy and a forgiving heart, as any number of the women standing and working beside you are in fact themselves post-abortive. Post-abortive women represent some of the most ardent, most faithful activists out there, and also the most likely to be carrying our version of a personifid-splitting gun, or in a position of leadership. Most post-abortion counselors at non-startup pro-life pregnancy centers first entered the doors as a post-abortive client.
The folks who show up to march in parades, I can’t tell you what’s in their hearts, but the organizers, the activists who fight on the frontlines day in and day out, are just as likely to be setting up a prolife women’s clinic as holding up a sign somewhere (though they’re not adverse to doing the latter if it’ll lead even one woman to change her mind) and quite the opposite of Fred Phelps. They’re the most loving, most caring, most forgiving people I’ve ever met. When you’re out on the front lines, you deal with people of all stripes, of all walks of life, and you learn to do so with compassion, and to focus on the issues you hold in common rather than letting disagreements over stuff like global warming divide you, that or you go home.
Of course, the author could well know all this, nor is including Fred Phelps-like characters a crime (I’m guilty too if it is.) I just took this as an opportunity to defend my friends 😉
Reading this novel, though, I have to wonder if Bartlett likes to quilt. If not, she’s certainly good at doing it in fiction. Personifid invasion seems to take scraps of fabric (ideas) from various popular and classic science fiction movies and books while tossing in a few “secret ingredients” of her own to complete her design. This leaves one with the feeling of “familiar yet other.” Whether this is wrong or not will depend on the reader’s individual tastes.
Speaking of tastes, I’m a naturally curious individual. When reading, I ask, “why?” nearly as much as a preschooler unless the author anticipates the question and answers it in the text. I was left still wondering about everything from, “why and how do the cars fly?” to “why is this called a ___ (fill in the blank with every made up term for just about every gadget in the book). I’m assuming most readers won’t care so much. Of course, the fair game answer to my last question is, “because the author decided that’s what it should be called or couldn’t think of anything better than Food Delivery System). Hey, I named a deadly computer virus Deadly Computer Virus once; of course I wrote that novel at sixteen, but am forever in no position to judge regardless.
Seriously, when I think about this issue, there’s a simple answer to why my mind is left buzzing at how all this “magic” is possible. Because it is magic. This is more of a “Science Fantasy,” a genre designed to peeve fans of Hard Science Fiction, but promises much fun.
It also explains the irrational need to rename Christians, God, etc. That’s a common trope of fantasy, although I don’t understand the reasons the authors do this, other than the notion God might reveal himself to a different people by a different name (He just might translate his names into the native tongue, but I don’t personally recall seeing “Iam” or “Iamsaves” show up in fantasy or that definition given of the names used for Him). If they think they’re sneaking God past unbelievers hostile to him, they are very, very wrong. Most have more respect for an upfront, unapologetic “yes these are Christians, yes they worship Jesus” approach than changing the terms and acting ashamed of the Lord’s name (without any judgment intended as to whether they actually are ashamed.)
Granted, “Triune” is so obvious it has to be intentionally obvious. I just fail to comprehend why His proper name wasn’t good enough.
Of course, the trope of “the environment is so bad, the oceans boiled off” means the book must be taking place about a million years in the future, which I’m surprised a Christian would speculate about, since most expect God will be back to fix everything well before that even if you’re exactly not holding your breath. Either that or Bartlett believes both that environmentalists’ global warming hoax is real and that their efforts to save the planet are doomed to failure. Perhaps she shares my opinion that if it is real, it’s beyond our control. Nothing scares modern man more than the notion we might be at the mercy of forces beyond our control, or subject to a power higher than ourselves (God.)
Regardless, rest assured, science is not democratic. The majority opinion doesn’t win, no matter what environmentalists want to tell you in order to justify their attempts to control you. True science goes wherever it leads and most researchers today don’t due to their financers’ agendas and personal biases (such as against God.) According to the previous link, some research has suggested the current warming trend is natural and will actually reverse itself within twenty years. Meaning that by 2030, we may be hearing alarmists screaming about global cooling.
Now seriously, would you turn something breakable over to your children’s care, knowing they will be killed or injured when they do? If we wouldn’t, why do we think God did? We call natural disasters “acts of God” for a reason. Sin has consequences and we do see those consequences in our environment. But the life cycles of this planet are in God’s hands, not ours.
Since I usually can’t help myself, and since authors probably read these tours more than ordinary readers anyway, I found some editing “mistakes” that really drove me nuts but probably won’t be noticed by the reader: some thought tagging (not necessary unless you’re jumping heads within the same scene, which most authorities consider a no-no) and POV intruders (It’s also not necessary to write “she saw” and usually not necessary to write “he heard”; these are actually a form of “telling” that distances the reader by shouting “Hey! You’re reading a novel rather than seeing and hearing this yourself!”) and a few long blocks of text that could have been broken up.
Again, this type of thing often slips through. Really, the editing was typical of most published novels I read for review; for some reason I had set my expectations higher for Gerke. The only editing issue of major importance to the reader is the choice of names “Aphra” and “Antha,” which I honestly don’t know how Gerke managed to keep straight, because I highly doubt I am alone in finding it confusing to remember which is the sister and which is the brother (note: not twins.) “Anther” would have been a small change that would have gone a long way to keeping the names straight while not messing up the triple A siblings meme.
Over all, though, I’d have to say Marcher Lord Press is off to a good start and feel comfortable encouraging Christians to check out their offerings.