On Friday I reviewed Nightmare by Robin Parrish. As a paranormal suspense novel, close to a horror novel, this book has received some interesting reviews. None of the reviews I’ve seen have said that it is a bad story. They all acknowledge Robin as a good suspense author.
However, a few reviews I’ve seen (on Christianbook.com, a couple during the CFBA tour) turn negative when they talk about the spiritual aspects of the book. Obviously Nightmare takes on a topic that may seem to go against some people’s theology. To this I say, make sure you read the book all the way through, and read it carefully. It is a work of speculative fiction – as in “speculate.” He is not saying a definitive position on the topic, he came up with a suspenseful story idea and worked on it. If you expect a treatise on spiritual warfare you’ll be disappointed.
Robin never denies or totally affirms the paranormal in the book. He writes an author note at the back of the book saying he believes closer to a Christian character in the book, and warns people that he does not believe dabbling in the paranormal is a good idea at all. The plot hinges around a machine that is able to remove a person’s soul from their body. There is a large McGuffin plot device that pops up at this time to explain this. The people are able to be reconnected soul to body at the end.
I’ve had some bad experience with things like Dungeons and Dragons in the past. I believe that Christians shouldn’t dabble in every possible form of evil or paranormal. This is a whole different ball game to me. I don’t believe he is trying to glamorize anything, but to use a plot point to tell a story. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Robin makes sure at the end to remind people it is just a story to make people think – not to sermonize on ghosts or glorify any kind of evil. At least in my opinion.
So is there a place in CBA fiction for a book like Nightmare? The answer is: it depends who you ask!
Nightmare is going to trip up some people who think that CBA fiction means uplifting, theologically correct books that are squeaky clean in the orthodoxy department. Thus the negative reviews. There is another segment of readers who are more open to fiction that has a little more ambiguity, without things fully nailed to a theological premise. People who read science fiction or fantasy should have no problem in general. I would like to see a CBA industry that has room for authors like Robin Parrish or Eric Wilson. However, in my opinion there is enough resistance to writers like them at this time that they may need to pursue other options in publishing.