Tuesday, April 13, 2010

CSFF Tour - Lost Mission Day 2

There is a lot to ponder in Lost Mission. I'm sure there will be some interesting discussion, and you'll be able to find all of the posts from the Christian Sci-fi and Fantasy tour at Becky Miller's blog.

Yesterday I gave an introduction, so check that out for an overview of the plot. Today I will give my thoughts on the book as a review, and then I'll follow up with thoughts on various plot points and themes.

First things first: isn't that a great cover? It captures quite nicely the mood of the book. The story is told from the past flowing into the present time. The author chooses an interesting "omniscient" point of view, where he interjects his interpretation on the narrative from time to time. Nowadays writing teachers frown on this, but it was a useful literary tool in the past, and it is used to good effect here (although it takes a little getting used to).

Each chapter starts in the late 1700's, talking about Fray Alejandro and his fellow priests as they establish a mission in the Southwestern desert to reach a tribe of indigenous people, but it slides thematically into the present time. There are four main characters followed: Lupe is a Mexican of Mayan descent who feels a supernatural call to preach to the Americanos, and crosses the border to follow her mission. Delano Wright is a very wealthy man with lots of land, a devout person who loses his unfaithful wife at the start of the book, and is left raising his precious teen daughter Harmony. Tucker is a fresh seminary graduate who goes to the desert to find his calling, and discovers it in an unexpected encounter. Finally, Ramon Rodriguez is also drawn to the USA from Mexico in order to save enough that his family can buy a small restaurant and he can return home.

The story starts slowly as we are introduced to each character over the course of several chapters. Honestly, the book was a bit of a drag initially, as I contended with the different writing style and the various people. Soon, the tendrils of each storyline start to cross and interweave until a rich tapestry develops. John Otte stated it well, that he started the book and read it as a duty, then he grew to want to, and finally he had to read to finish it. I can totally identify with that.

There is a satisfaction seeing the different points intersect, but it also a book that raises some thoughts that should make us consider carefully our own viewpoints. Can faith be flexible, or is in intransient? Where does righteousness cancel out mercy, if ever? Can we break a law to do the right thing? Some books are only meant to entertain. Lost Mission is certainly entertaining, but it is a thought-provoking book, one of the deepest I've read in a while.

The characters certainly drive the story, as their experiences are key to developing the plot. Each one is created with laudable and lamentable characteristics, and their flawed response to life is the key to the suspense in the book. Even finishing the book over a week ago, they have stayed with me.

The book has a few flaws, as any work. There is a major plot development that disappears as ash after a fire, and I thought it needed more than a casual dismissal at the end. There was a mention of us being aware or having some form of consciousness prior to our birth (page 68). I live in an area with a high concentration of LDS followers, and this idea of a spiritual existence prior to birth is a key point for them, one that I don't believe is Biblical. I was dismayed to see it passed off in this book. It isn't a major point at all - I think he was trying to be poetic, but my context affects how I see it, and I can't let it pass without comment.

Overall, I can highly recommend reading Lost Mission for anyone who wants to be challenged in their thinking and wants a rich tale to chew on for a while. It isn't the easiest to enter into, but it is a destination that will enrich and potentially prick you as well.

As I said, check back tomorrow for final thoughts on some themes from the book, and check out my tourmates at the link above!


  1. Do you know, you're the second or third person on the blog who's commented about how slowly this book starts! I never noticed. It maybe because I like/write books with an outrageous number of characters myself.

    Note to self: slim down the character list! (LOL)

    This was a thoughtful, careful review! I liked it!

  2. Krysti,

    Hey thanks! You know, it isn't a BAD thing persay that this book starts slowly. I can't imagine it starting otherwise (doesn't lend itself to a helicopter chase and explosions). I just noticed that when the threads started to mix a little, I thought, "Ah, here's where he's going" and then I looked forward to all the connections.

  3. Hey, Jason--

    I was actually bopping right along until a paragraph about borders between countries being just ideas: At that moment, I felt I was being fed an agenda, and it almost made me stop reading. (Yeah. Really. I have a low tolerance for being preached at in fiction or on film, regardless of the sermon.)

    But then I kept going -- I had, after all, made a promise to review the book -- and I was glad I did. And you're right: there certainly is a LOT to chew on! I could probably right several more blog posts just on themes in the book.

  4. I was also impressed by the cool & eerie cover. If you ever get a chance to tour some of the old California missions, I highly recommend it.

  5. The characters have stayed with me as well. Quite an achievement for the writer!

  6. Good review, Jason. I like your thoughts in the next post as well. Athol gave us a ton to think about, didn't he?

    And I'm glad you mentioned the cover. There was so much else to talk about, it kind of got overlooked, but I thought it was beautiful and so representative of the book!