The Strange Man.
It is an evocative title. Why is he strange? What is going on? A look at the cover grabs your eye and might give shivers to someone.
Why have a book like this in Christian speculative fiction?
As others have said in better arguments, Christian fiction is a place that should be able to depict the fight between good and evil, light and darkness, with more authenticity than any horror writer or slasher film. We know there is a battle for souls, with eternal consequences. We know we have a real enemy that is worse than anything that can be imagined.
The Strange Man has an interesting premise, a promising introduction, a mix of suspense and a little goofy humor, and a cliffhanger ending. These are all positive things I got out of the book. I gave a short synopsis of the book yesterday, and the main character Dras Weldon is an unlikely hero. He does some crazy things like haggling with kids over a vintage G.I. Joe action figure (Snake Eyes! – mega geek points there) and riding his bike sans pants. He adds some humor over the first 2/3 of the book with his slacker ways. Unfortunately, he also becomes a hard character to root for, as his immature ways and cluelessness made me want to smack him after a while.
Overall, the book has some strong points, but ultimately failed to engage me at several points. The suspense is built up well in the first act, but sags in the middle. He ups the ante considerably in the third act, but some of the character progressions seem to be too much in too short a time.
Dras realizes to fight the demonic influence of the Strange Man he must turn to his childhood faith. He was painted as such a stunted adult that his turn-around and willingness to sacrifice anything for his friend Rosalyn is too incredible. I’m willing to accept a demonic force walking around town, but a sudden shift of character is too much. Also, the events that lead to the climax seem too outrageous as well. Dras is accused of killing a police officer, and when that happened I put the book down in frustration for the day. Too improbable, so it threw me out of the fictive picture I was painting in my mind.
It seems that Greg has enjoyed the horror genre and wants to emulate it with a Christian twist. I admire his goal, and I applaud writers using this genre (not necessarily my preferred, admittedly) to share a redemptive theme in an accessible form. Unfortunately, the plot doesn’t have enough behind it to propel it through the whole book. The middle starts bouncing us around different people, confusing me and taking away from the central characters. Plot points are introduced and lost. The trick is, this is supposed to be The Coming Evil Trilogy. I don’t know if there’s enough to power it through.
It also suffers from a lot of inconsistencies. Greensboro is at once a dying town, but other times has crowds of teens and college-aged students at a dance club. Demons outrace cars but can’t catch Dras on his bicycle.
Finally, as a writer I noticed that he had a hard time staying in one point of view for a scene. I don’t know if general readers pick up this like I do (having been ruined for reading like I have) but I know I had to check back several times to see who was doing the thinking/perceiving. All of that tends to throw off the reading experience, I feel.
The end even felt improbable from the spoiler section above, but he put enough What the? factor that I am curious to what happens next. Unfortunately, I won’t be returning to Greensboro to find out.
Now this is just one person’s opinion. Becky Miller keeps track of all the tour posts, so be sure to check around to see if I’m way out there on this one. It wouldn’t be the first time…
(I received a free copy of The Strange Man in return for a review and my participation in the CSFF Blog Tour. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)