The CSFF is featuring Mike Duran and his latest book The Telling.
I mentioned yesterday, I met Mike at the ACFW Conference this last
weekend and we talked a few times. When I mentioned the tour for his
book, he told me to be honest with my opinion. Mike has posted about the
lack of real critique in Christian fiction circles before, so it didn't
surprise me that he said to go for it.
But first, what is The Telling?
Zeph Walker is a disfigured loner in the town of Endurance, on the edge of Death Valley. Hiding out on his property, his only real contact with people is in his dilapidated Book Swap store. His hideous scar, stretching from his nose across his mouth to his chin, has earned him the name Zipperface.
But Zeph has not always been like this. He used to have The Telling. He would know things about people, situations, events. He turned his back on this gift long ago.
When two law enforcement agents show him a body in the morgue that is a carbon copy of himself, he begins to be drawn in to a mystery that has been brewing underground for years. For Endurance is known for being the location of one of the nine mythical gates of hell.
As Zeph meets new friends that are also finding suspicious things going on in their little town, a choice is presented. Face the threat and face the past, or succumb to the evil lurking in the abandoned mine nearby.
As you can see, Mike Duran does not lack for imagination. When he announced his tagline on his blog: "A disfigured prophet must rise up to close one of the nine mythical gates of hell," I knew we were in for a ride.
Mike has a distinct style. He writes supernatural fiction, dealing with the elements of angels, demons, spirits, and the ragged edge of faith. However, he does so with a lyrical style. Mike cares about the language used, and he takes great care to paint the picture of what is going on with metaphor and simile. His words don't just move the plot along, but they weave a picture. This is one of Mike's strengths, but it does make his writing a little more dense. The book is not an easy pick-up and read. There's effort expended in working through the passages.
Like his first book, The Resurrection, he deals with flawed characters with significant weakness. Zeph was horribly scarred by his stepmother. Spunky senior citizen Annie Lane has fought isolation and feeling like she may have been passed by in her destiny. There's even a lot of empathy for one of the antagonists, Fergus
Coyne, who battles in his own decision on how to confront his past. The
bottom line is that you care about these characters because they have
significant doubts and challenges - things we can relate to as readers.
Now to the plot and the big idea of the book. I'm going to rate the
writing to finish today, and tomorrow will tackle the implications of
Mike said he threw the kitchen sink at this book. Government conspiracy theories, prophecy, demons, body-snatching, and cactus jelly all in one swirl of suspense. This makes it very interesting. To me, it also made it tricky to follow everything that went on. I will admit that I read it in fits and starts due to my schedule, but the back and forth of the varied plot points got confusing - enough that it dampened some of the enjoyment. Between the twists and four different point of view characters, I had to step out of his world to figure out who was doing what and where it fit.
It is a good book. I didn't feel it was a great read. Fellow writers are notorious to please, because we read books with different eyes than a standard fiction fan. If I had to rate it on a scale, I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. There's a lot to think about in this book, there are interesting characters, and a skillful use of language, tempered by a mildly confusing plot.
I didn't talk about the themes and big ideas. Check back tomorrow for that - I promise it is the most interesting part.
Also, check out the other posts on The Telling. Becky Miller lists all the posts so far.