Monday, September 25, 2006

Plague of Terror

I really wanted to like this book. I really, really did.

I mean, this book was written by an LCMS pastor. I thought that was really cool because it's my dream to become a published LCMS pastor as well. But the more I read Plague of Terror, the more disappointed I became.

The premise of the story was interesting: terrorists release a fast-acting virus upon an unsuspecting world, pitching everyone and everything into chaos. The book itself follows three siblings, a doctor, a radio DJ, and a pastor, as they try to deal with this horrific plague and manage falling in love. There's the added mystery of a strange man that pops in and out of their lives.

In many ways, this book reminds me of Ted Dekker's Circle Trilogy and Frank Peretti's two angel books. To put it bluntly, Dekker and Peretti do it better. This was not an enjoyable read. If nothing else, Anderson's book taught me a few things about writing Christian fiction:

1) Show, don't tell. You hear this a lot in writing books. At least, I have. Now I understand why it's so important. In many cases, Anderson tells us about things. He doesn't show us through what his characters do or say. It made it boring to read.

2) Watch your Point-Of-View. Anderson had us jumping inside one person's head and then into another person's head and then into a sort of omniscient narrarator P.O.V. It made the book less enjoyable. Rather than see the world through the eyes of one character at a time, you never knew whose eyes we'd be looking through.

What really got frustrating was the times that Anderson "pulled back the curtain", so to speak, to allow us to see what was happening on the spiritual plane between angels and demons. He could have learned a lesson from Frank Peretti on this. Peretti did it right: when he shifted into the spiritual realm, he broke from the scene he had been writing. This allowed the readers to make the shift with him and it wasn't jarring when angels or demons popped into the story.

Anderson doesn't do that. We'll be going along, following people in the moral plane, when suddenly BAM! There's a paragraph out of nowhere about what the angels are up to. But then we're back with the humans again immediately afterward.

Another thing that Anderson could have learned from Peretti would have been to give the angels and demons names and personalities. As it was, I didn't really care. As a matter of fact, I think he could have just as easily cut all the scenes from the supernatural P.O.V. and the story would have been better.

Which brings us to the next point...

3) If it doesn't move the plot forward, cut it. I mentioned that there were three siblings in this book, right? Only two of them related to the main plot of the story, namely the doctor and the pastor. Both had major parts to play. The radio DJ and her love interest contributed very little the main storyline about the virus. Once I finished reading the book, I seriously questioned why she was even included in the story at all.

Actually, there seemed to be a lot of unnecessary padding in this book. There were scenes that were tossed in there for seemingly no reason. In one case, I thought that something truly horrible had happened to one of the heroes, only to have him pop up a couple chapters later and be just fine. In another case, there were some scenes set in Iran that didn't really seem necessary.

I could go on, but you get the idea. It wasn't a bad concept; it was just executed poorly. Hopefully Anderson's future efforts will be better.

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