Book Review : This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti

Last night I finished reading This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti. As one of my friends pointed out, I really went old-school with this one as the book was released in the mid 80s. It was recommended to me by a different friend, and I’m glad he did.

Inner Critic

The book takes a little while to really get going and right around page 50 I was having serious doubts as to whether I would continue with it or put it down. I’m glad I stuck with it. By the time I got to the last third of the book, the story flew. The night I finished it, I became completely engrossed and could not put it down. It consumed my entire evening. I haven’t gotten into a book like that in ages.

I tried to read this book more critically than I’ve read in the past, but there were times where I just got lost in the story. There was one scene in particular that was a similar event to one that happens in my current Work In Progress. I was particularly interested in our Peretti handled it.

Even as I throughly enjoyed the story, I was struck by lack of craft in some of the writing. I spotted things in the book that wouldn’t get past a round of Saucy Ink critiques. Adverbs were used early and often, and at one point he even used a double adverb with very something-ly. To be verbs and passive voice were used often as well.

Were standards that different in the 80s?

From a story standpoint my only major quibble was during the last half of the book. I hate it when characters act dumb.

Let me explain.

One of the protagonists is the editor of the local paper. He’s a smart guy, and used to work for the New York Times. By this point in the book, they have already figured out that they should be suspicious of new people in town replacing someone who just decided to leave or was having financial or martial problems. Yet, when his own secretary suddenly leaves, he hires a new person from out of town and isn’t the least bit suspicious of her. It’s not until near the end of the book that he finally suspects her. The big reveal of her true allegiance lost any punch because I already figured it out 10 chapters ago. The character should have too.

What is stunning to me is that despite the issues with the writing and characters, This book remained on the Christian Booksellers Association’s top ten best-sellers list for over 150 consecutive weeks, and has currently sold over 2 million copies worldwide.

Loved It

What I loved about the book was how it gave the reader a look into this mystical world we never see. There was action, adventure, intrigue. You see the action happening to the humans, but then you see the machinations of the spiritual realm, and the two realms interact, even though the humans can’t see it.

It’s been called a modern day Screwtape Letters. The comparison fits well.

The highest praise I can give is that I just couldn’t put it down last night. The characters were unraveling this huge conspiracy and all the mysteries and questions in the book were finding their answers. The climatic battle set up at the very beginning found its resolution. There were twists and turns, and one minute I think the story is going to end one way, and then something happens, and I start thinking it is going to end a completely different way.

Suggestions?

Do you have any suggestion for good books? I’m particularly interested in Christian fiction that incorporates the an element of fantasy or the fantastic like “This Present Darkness” did. Bonus points if they are available on the Nook.

But I’m open to any books that are well written. One of the key things I need to do to learn to write better is to read better.

Here’s my Goodreads profile, or if you want just hit me up in the comments.

photo: http://frankperetti.com/?p=69

Note: This post is part of the 31-post Ultimate Blog Challenge. I will be posting 31 times during the month of July, 2012. Since that is a ton of content, I made a page on the blog where you can see all my entries.

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