The God Hater by Bill Myers.
For a synopsis, check out yesterday's post introducing the book.
This book fits a "speculative fiction" category by supposing that we can build an artificial computer world, with completely independent artificial intelligence, that can be used to see how humanity will respond to variables and make better predictions.
My prediction is that this book will do well with general Christian fiction (specifically CBA readers). And that is perhaps a shame.
This book is written for a purpose. It has a specific aim - to show the logic God used in creating our world and the need for divine intervention (per the Questions to the Author in the back of the book). The book is designed to be a challenge to the New Atheists who are challenging Christian belief with old arguments and renewed fervor. It is a noble purpose, certainly. From a personal standpoint I would love to see it succeed.
Reviewing it for artistic purposes is another story.
Often Christian art is considered to be in one of two categories: it is made with creativity as the primary goal, and the theme taken from the book is incidental, or it is made with a message as the anchor, and the story is conceived and created around it. I don't think it is necessarily bad to have a book written with the second point as the motivation, but it means that the story will require a very deft touch to make the work stand on artistic merits, apart from the theme (however holy it may be).
The God Haters, in my opinion, fails to rise above the forced preconceptions and stand as a quality piece of fiction. The story suffers from several flaws. The characters are generally 2D cut-outs, created to hold a place in the story without much depth or empathy. The Christian professor Annie escapes this to a degree, but she doesn't carry enough of the story to overcome the other flat people. He uses several writing techniques that jarred me out of the imaginary world he was attempting to create, from using parentheses for several asides to a character with an annoying vocal tic ("bro!"). There were also a couple of scientific mistakes that threw me as a biology major, but that is me being overly picky.
The suspense and plot is pulled along well enough, and isn't all that bad. It just isn't all that good either. I didn't get bored, but I wasn't invested in what was happening. There are some touching moments as he delves into the computer simulation and the professor's avatar gains more and more compassion for the "creation," but it is too little, too late to save the book. A major issue seems to be that the book is too short to give the depth needed to make everything more believable. Perhaps it would be a different story if it had the length to give the depth required.
The book gives the whole back copy to quotes of endorsements. There's no place to get a synopsis of the book, and I think that will be a disservice to readers as well.
I don't like to give such negative reviews, but I have to be honest in my impression of a book to have some integrity as a reviewer. Christian art can be especially tricky, because the charge can be brought that I'm harming a brother in their ministry or something similar. Like I said, I admire the intent, and wish it could have worked out better. It was an ambitious project, but my opinion is that it isn't a great book for those looking for a story with in-depth characters and a carefully crafted plot. If you're looking for a book to shore up your Christian beliefs, then this book would be entertaining enough. I wouldn't recommend it to a non-believer, but I really won't be recommending it anyway.
If you make it past this gloomy review, tomorrow I want to talk about the issue of art and theme raised by this book, and compare it with another recent read.
I did receive a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes, and was obviously not required to give a positive endorsement in exchange for the book. The opinions are my own.
Oh, and check out my tourmates at Becky's blog for the latest and greatest from the others in the CSFF Tour.