Book Reviews: Dauntless Hackers Were Taken By Isis

December 5, 2015

By BRUCE DENNILL, KATE DENNILL & ROB HOFMEYR

 

The Outlaw Chronicles: Eyes Wide Open, Water Walker & Hacker by Ted Dekker              8

Dauntless by Dina L Sleiman                                                                                                     7

Why You Were Taken by JT Lawrence                                                                                      8.5

The Isis Crisis by Charles Dyer and Mark Tobey                                                                      6

 

Ted Dekker’s work is consistently and elegantly underscored by thought-provoking and paradigm-shifting ideas regarding true faith in God. The Outlaw Chronicles picks up on some of his previous works, but can definitely be read as stand-alones. Having said that, those who succumb to the Dekker bug will almost certainly go back and find anything and everything they have missed. Eyes Wide Open comes first and is an existential exercise in the very best way. The characters Christy Snow and Austin Hartt find themselves in a nightmarish mix-up in St. Matthew’s hospital psychiatric ward. They are forced to question truth and reality in the deepest sense and try to survive the process. Water Walker features Alice Ringwald, who is staring down the barrel of identity confusion, which is aggravated by being abducted from her foster parents and returned to her birth mother in a strange and twisted community. When the gun goes off she must decide who she really is and embrace her complete identity. In Hacker, Nyah Parks teams up with Austin Hartt as they take hacking to the next level, moving beyond computers to hack the neural system of their own brains. As they strive to explore and harness what exists outside of perceived matter, Nyah finds herself in a race against time to save her dying mother. Dekker is hailed as a “master of suspense” but his writing shows him to be so much more. Like JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis he has the ability to stretch the reader’s paradigms via the creation of alternate worlds or realities, to give them an experience of the “other,” and to leave them richer for the experience. Sadly, contemporary literature tends towards pulp fiction, with few authors taking the time to hone their craft. Although he may not be everyone’s cup of tea, Dekker will certainly continue to retain and grow his highly loyal reader base. – KD

Pitching a fearless female protagonist in the largely female author-driven Christian fiction industry makes good business sense, but Lady Merry Ellison, turned rogue in the style of Robin Hood, is a well developed and compelling character without being a gimmick. She is plunged into difficult circumstances when the evil King John (cue sinister cello music) has her family killed after her father is accused of treason. She unwittingly crosses paths with baron’s son Timothy Grey, to whom she was previously engaged. He is now in the employ of an earl who is deeply loyal to the King, creating a conundrum. Merry is wrestling with issues of faith after the trauma of losing her family, but has gained deeper insight into the inequalities created by an unjust feudal system, while Timothy has held fast to his beliefs but is still invested in the privileges enjoyed by the nobility. As they work towards a meeting of minds, amid danger and sabotage, a rekindling of the pair’s former love feels complicated but possibly redemptive. In the light of today’s society, in which old ideas and ideals of classes and norms are being tested and reformed, Dauntless offers a relevant yet relaxing read and provides a fun and enjoyable beginning to the Valiant Hearts series. – KD

 

It may be because this futuristic thriller is self-published, but the book has not yet received the public profile it deserves. In short, Johannesburg author JT Lawrence’s story deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as work by internationally celebrated peers Lauren Beukes and Sarah Lotz. Why You Were Taken is set in South Africa in 2021, a society not fundamentally different from what the country’s citizens are experiencing now and yet ominously distorted at the same time. Corporations are the seats of power, greed is more fashionable than ethics and paranoia is rampant: it’s a context in which interesting characters can make immediate impact. And Lawrence’s protagonists are powerful presences all, given fascinating, original touches by the imaginative writer. Kirsten is a synaesthete – seeing, tasting, and feeling emotions, fears and uncertainty. Seth also sees the world differently, being a maths genius who can apply formulae to almost anything in order to navigate his way through occasionally dubious dealings. Keke is a smart, effective journalist (they still exist in 2021 – rejoice!) whose considerable range of wiles makes her both effective and attractive. Lawrence’s eye for detail is matched by a creativity that makes a merely excellent dystopian mystery into sublime literary entertainment. Readers with lively imagination will be able to read the book almost as they would a screenplay, and the powerfully graphic style employed should, with any luck, ensure interest in this piece as the basis for a screen adaptation. The story’s pace never dips, and there is action, sex and intrigue aplenty. Lawrence even manages to finagle an ending that convinces, rather than simply putting the rollercoaster on pause, which would have been forgivable given the build-up to that point. Her previous book, The Memory Of Water, similarly edgy, received good reviews, and there’s another one on the way. If the momentum built here can be sustained, expect the relative paucity of big headlines about JT Lawrence to shortly be a thing of the past. – BD

 

The Isis Crisis is a straightforward book, setting out the present threat from the Islamic State militants, but putting it in an historical perspective. The authors have identified some of the causes of the conflict and they discuss them in fairly simple terms. Let me be clear: this is directed to a Christian readership and not a sophisticated one at that. The War to End War is a chapter on the First World War and the demise of the Ottoman Empire, but also on the terms of the peace treaties and the British duplicity in their dealings with both Arabs and Jews. “Britain and France created the contemporary Arab world. They played God and produced mutilated entities that almost a century later are coming apart.” The next chapter is on the rise of the Mujahideen. Here we are given a very summary history of United States interventions in Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, including the suitcases full of dollars handed to Jihadist leaders to fight the Russians. Connecting the dots is an equally curt history of the rise of the Taliban and of Al Qaeda. There are far more detailed accounts written. Christina Lamb recently published a brilliant survey of the recent political and military history of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is a substantial volume. This little book does not pretend to be more than a primer. Do not, however, dismiss it. The Rule of Hate deals with the militaristic aspects of the Muslim faith and its unity in its hatred of the Israeli state. I cannot comment on how accurate the observations are. That needs the input of someone who knows and understands more of the nuances of Muslim teaching and praxis. More useful is the chapter on Sunnis versus Shi’ites. There is not much comfort in either grouping, as in present propaganda both are committed to religious warfare, internecine and against purported enemies of the Faith. We then have an exposition of Islamic concepts of statehood: states vary in the degree to which they recognise democratic principle, freedom of religion, press freedom and the civic rights of its people. Turkey is seen as the one Islamist state that has actually been a democracy, though its present slide from secularism to greater emphasis on Islam is not promising. The concept of theocracy predominates in Iran and other states, ie. rule under the Qur’an and the Sunnah (teachings of the prophets). Oil and Water is the only chapter that deals with the economics underlying a century of conflict. Turkey’s utilisation of water for huge irrigation schemes robs other countries of a vital resource. The economies of several states are based on oil and, given the artificial nature of the boundaries, this leads to competition and conflict both locally and internationally. Ethnicity is a further problem: the 30 million Kurds are a people who live within the borders of three states but are accepted in none. Religious divisions are exacerbated by and in many instances arise from the economics and the issues of race. The authors then move into an exegesis of apocalyptic passages from the Bible, looking to explain the present situation and possible new developments in terms of Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation. Having as a schoolboy read avidly the explanations of the Suez Crisis (1956) in just those terms, I withhold comment. An honest and helpful book in many respects, this does give a perspective that is often lacking in broadcasts. Do not use it formulate foreign policy or take big personal decisions, though. – RH

 

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