Tuesday, June 23, 2009

CSFF Blog Tour: Vanish Day Two

Abandon all hope, ye who have not read Vanish by Tom Pawlik.

You have been duly warned. If you keep reading, you're going to find out a lot about the story, the resolution, and all that.

Like I said yesterday, the folks who survived the strange incident find themselves in a strange predicament: an abandoned city, strange beings on their tails, a rash that spreads from person to person, and it seems as if time has unhinged itself. They seem to be lurching forward at random for little or no reason. What could have happened? Who are the gray creatures attacking them?

That's the real mystery. They're described as tall, featureless, unable or unwilling to step into the light. Who are they? What do they want?

The one theory that gets floated early and often is that it's aliens. It explains the mysterious lights the survivors saw in the storm. The beings are clearly inhuman, so it seems logical that they'd be aliens. As much as I was rooting for them to turn out to be aliens, I knew it couldn't be true. For starters, this is Christian fiction. Aliens seem to be strictly verboten (although I'm hoping that's beginning to change). Second, the idea was floated so often and so urgently, I knew it had to be a dodge.

And what a dodge it is. It turns out that the survivors ... well ... aren't. In any sense of the word. The creatures are a sort of "reaper," bringing in a very grim harvest. And the Chicago and environs they occupy isn't the real world. It's a metaphysical region between life and death called Interworld.

It took me a while to catch on to that. Even though I knew it couldn't be aliens, I had no idea what it was going to be until Conner Hayden put it all together. Once I realized what was going on, though, I sat back and thought, Gee, I think I've read this before.

And I have. In some ways, Vanish is very similar to The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. In Divorce, Lewis plays with an old doctrine called the refrigerium, a belief that God gives "holidays" to the damned so they can get a small taste of heaven. If they repent and acknowledge their need for salvation, they're allowed in. If not, they go back to hell.

Lewis's story starts with the narrator waiting for a bus to hell. He takes a trip to Lewis's version of purgatory, which he envisions as the front porch of heaven, a place where a person "toughens up" so he or she can survive the glories of paradise. For a soul from the murky world of hell, purgatory is simply too real. The grass cuts his feet. A simple brook is too solid to walk on comfortably. The narrator in this short book works his way through purgatory, seeing the redeemed pleading with the lost souls to give up the sins that bind them and come into heaven. In the end, it turns out to be a nightmare.

For those of you who have read Vanish, I think the parallels between the two are pretty obvious. Lewis's character travels to purgatory, a land between heaven and hell. Pawlik's characters are trapped in Interworld, a region between life and death. In both stories, the main characters interact with strange beings almost beyond their comprehension. The similarities are very striking.

So I guess the question is, which is better? In terms of quick readability and entertainment value, Vanish wins, hands down. Lewis's The Great Divorce is more philosophical and artistic. But quite honestly, if I were to choose which one is better, the one I'd want to read several times over, I'd go with Lewis every time. He may preach, but he never gets too preachy (which is one weakness in Pawlik's ending).

Am I the only one who thinks so? Go find out:

Brandon Barr
Justin Boyer
Keanan Brand
Grace Bridges
Karri Compton
Amy Cruson
CSFF Blog Tour
Stacey Dale
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Alex Field
Beth Goddard
Todd Michael Greene
Ryan Heart
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Becky Jesse
Cris Jesse
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John Ottinger
Donita K. Paul
Epic Rat
Steve Rice
Crista Richey
Hanna Sandvig
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Speculative Faith
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Phyllis Wheeler


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

I hadn't read your post yet, John, and ended up making a comparison to The Great Divorce as well. Interesting.


Robert Treskillard said...

Where'd you get that "spoliers ahead" sign. That made me laugh.

You've put in a lot of work on this, John, great review!

Robert Treskillard said...

Another comparison is to Stephen King's novel (I forget the name) where people on an airplane get caught out of sync with time. They end up at this airport, and everyone is gone, and these strange creatures come and begin eating everything.

Seemed a similar idea ... out of sync with everyone else, strange creatures, death quickly approaching.

I've actually not read King at all, but heard about this novel. Anyway, I'd prefer Lewis any day!

Rachel Starr Thomson said...

I haven't (yet) read The Great Divorce, but your comparison seems apt. I did find the end of Vanish to be fairly preachy.

Steve said...

Actually, I made a brief reference to Stephen King's Langoliers in my first post.

As to The Great Divorce... No. And that's the problem, as I mention in my third post. You see, there is apparently no way to change your mind in the Interworld, and that (to me) suggests a somewhat pro-death message: get it over with, already! Note that although Conner wants to change, he apparently can't do so until/unless he "wakes up." That's why Helen is foredoomed: she would have to wake up at least briefly, which is impossible.

The Great Divorce is perhaps my favorite Lewis story; more similarity would've been better.