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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Guest Post: Julius Schenk, His New Novel, Ghosts of the Living: Fallen Angels (Crowdfunding campaign)

Today my guest is novelist, Julius Schenk. I first met Julius in a Facebook group promoting his new novel, Ghosts of the Living: Fallen Angels, and the Crowdfunding campaign to enable in its release. I liked what I saw about this novel, so offered him a post to promote it or write about being a Christian and speculative fiction. 

So without further ado, let me introduce you to Julius Schenk, discuss his novel and his attitude towards being a Christian writer and his crowdfunding campaign. 

Over to you, Julius!

Thanks, Peter. First, I’d like to thank you for this chance to spread the word. Before I talk about my project and what it involves, I think it’s a good idea to introduce myself. My name is Julius Schenk I am a young(ish), Christian fiction writer from Australia.

Unlike many in the faith, I wasn’t born into a family that went to church, I didn’t have a Christian upbringing, I found my own way to Jesus when I was older, through my new wife and our shared experiences as we travelled around the globe doing voluntary work. The reason I think this is important is that not always being a Christian, I feel I know the world and things a non-Christian is exposed to daily. I have always loved fantasy, sci-fi, gaming, and punk rock music. When I first became a Christian I struggled a lot because every tv show I’d ever watched, every book I’d read or movie I’d seen, had done some work to make me think to be a Christian, was being a fool, believing something that couldn’t be true.

I feel that we live in a world of media. We are exposed on all sides by images, messages, opinions, and most of them are against faith. Even the tv shows I love, often seem to subtly, or not so subtly undermine what we believe.

My reaction to this isn’t to try to ban these things or to shut myself off from them, but rather, see if we can’t use them, as Christians to help spread the message instead.

I’ve written a three-part Christian historical fiction series, about a young(ish) woman who struggles with her faith and must fight against demonic influence and crime during the Victorian era in London. I believe it’s exciting and fun, I know that based on previous books it will gain around 10k downloads. What this makes me think, is if I was a non-Christian still, and someone wanted to reach me to get me to think about faith, or even open my mind to it just a little bit. Then having the message in an exciting book, tv shows, great music or movie, would have a lot more chance than someone knocking on my door and asking me directly about Jesus.

When I think that 30% of the world follows some form of Christianity, I know that 30% of books certainly don’t have a Christian focus, or music or any other form of entertainment media. This project is to raise money so that I can promote my book well so I can get the word out further than I could on my own. As a writer, I’d love to be personally successful, but more than that, this is about trying something different. As such, as part of my campaign, I will be offering space in the back of my book. What I’d love is so when people finish reading it, they can find information, so they could go to an alpha course, find a church near them, or consider Christian volunteering. 

We all know the world has changed, and many are changing to share the good news in new ways, Social media, Facebook, now has a lot of Christian messages. But more than this, I feel we need to not only use new methods to get the word out but also have a new format for that message.

The ways you can help this is to embrace your creativity. It’s a God-given gift and can be used to help share the gospel with people. If you like writing, try writing a book, if you can sing or play an instrument, think of recording some songs, if you do film, think of using it to help with the message. I’d love to see that in a few years’ time, the bestselling book isn’t “50 Shades of Grey” or something we all know is making the world a worse place, but is a great Christian fiction book, that both believers and non-believers, can enjoy and learn from.

To whet your appetite about Ghosts of the Living, here is the description: 

Born cursed at birth, Genevieve can see the memories of others in all she touches and where she goes, now she must use her God-given power and faith to help fight the rise of demonic influence and wave of possession, sweeping London. Set in 1890. 

The first four chapters can be found, ready to read, right here: 

Julius describes the reason for his crowdfunding campaign: 

As a young(ish) Christian who loves fantasy, Netflix and playing computer games I know to reach a new generation with a message of faith, we need to embrace new techniques and ideas. I've been a writer for five years, and a Christian for only two, I want to use my combined passions to get good stories and ideas out there. I need your help so my book, which is awesome, gets the attention it deserves and the Christian voice can be heard in the world of publishing and entertainment.

Please check out my campaign: Ghosts of the Living: Christian Fantasy series. The video from the campaign explains it all: 

Follow me on Facebook and Twitter

I also run a site, Christian Bookfinder you can add your book, for some extra promo! Thanks again and I hope this can be the beginning of a new wave of great Christian writers, getting the support they badly need for their work.

Thanks Julius for encouraging us about how being a Christian can impact your writing from this perspective and reach readers with the Gospel. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing Ghost of the Living and the remainder of the series.

I encourage readers of this post to consider contributing to Julius' crowdfunding campaign to enable this novel to be released. I have contributed already. This is one way to support Christian authors and Christian fiction. 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Blog Tour: The Student and the Slave: an Adventure Novel with a Giveaway. New Novel by Annie Douglass Lima

Today I am hosting author, Annie Douglass Lima, in her blog tour to promote the release of her new novel. 

This exciting new young adult action and adventure novel, The Student and the Slave, is now available for purchase! This is the third book in the Krillonian Chronicles, after The Collar and the Cavvarach and The Gladiator and the Guard. 

The series is set in an alternate world that is very much like our own, with just a few major differences. One is that slavery is legal there. Slaves must wear metal collars that lock around their neck, making their enslaved status obvious to everyone. Another difference is the popularity of a martial art called cavvara shil. It is fought with a cavvarach (rhymes with "have a rack"), a weapon similar to a sword but with a steel hook protruding from partway down its top edge. Competitors can strike at each other with their feet as well as with the blades. You win in one of two ways: disarming your opponent (hooking or knocking their cavvarach out of their hands) or pinning their shoulders to the mat for five seconds.

Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.

First, a little Information about Books 1 and 2: 

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But the only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach. 

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train. 

And now, The Student and the Slave, with another awesome cover by the talented Jack Lin!

Is this what freedom is supposed to be like? Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st! 

About the Author:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Other books by Annie Douglass Lima : 

Student poetry anthologies edited by Annie Douglass Lima:

Connect with the Author Online:

Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of the first two books in the series!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Author/Novel Spotlight: Brennan McPherson and The Flood, Book 2 in The Fall of Man series.

Today, I am spotlighting novelist, Brennan McPherson. I discovered Brennan when he was marketing his debut novel, Cain: The Story of the First Murder and the Birth of an Unstoppable Evil (The Fall of Man Book 1) in March, 2016. Now Brennan is about to release book 2 in this series, The Flood. I reached out to him to help promote this release and showcase this series. 

So sit back and explore Brennan's novels and some of the background to it. But first, a little about Brennan himself:

BRENNAN S. MCPHERSON writes dark biblical fiction with a fantasy twist that puts flesh on some of the most well-recognized characters of all time. Brennan is married to his best friend, has the coolest daughter in the world (even if she can’t talk yet), and blogs frequently at brennanmcpherson.com.

Now let's look at The Flood which will be released on Amazon on November 8th in Kindle format and paperback: 

A visionary retelling of the story of the worldwide flood. . .

Nearly two thousand years after Adam and Eve eat death into existence, the flavor still echoes in their descendants' tongues. War is sweeping the world from the iron throne of a man who calls himself the God-King. Caught in the crucible is a young family broken by loss and carried along by the prophecies spoken over the infant boy who fits in their hands.

Will little Noah grow to be the savior the world needs? Or will bending his bow come easier than bending his knee to the God who holds his destiny?

Beginning before Noah is born and continuing on until the world is washed clean, Flood is a stunning story about family and forgiveness in a world filled with pain.

Brennan states why he wrote The Flood: 

To show one potential scenario in which God sending the flood could be seen as truly merciful. I have friends who turned away from the faith because their imaginations couldn’t conjure a single scenario in which God could be seen as merciful for sending the flood. So I applied my imagination to conjure one such scenario. God will never fit within our understanding. Once we think we have him figured out, he defies us. He demands that we engage him not just with our rational mind, but with our whole person (spirit, emotions, imagination, etc.). Fantasy literature is a personal letter to the rational mind that says, “Hey, I know you think you got this covered, but you don’t. Leave some space for the imagination, because God’s beyond even that.”

The Flood has Endorsements from two successful authors:

“Flood is a supernatural journey into a world that is only evil all the time and must be saved by God’s merciful judgment. A soul-searching, heart-rending, deeply-satisfying story. McPherson taps our imaginations to consider what Noah, his family, and their lives might have been like before the Flood. Many of my questions about Genesis 5-9 now have a place to rest in this well-researched fiction. 

–Mesu Andrews, ECPA Book of the Year award-winning author of Love Amid Ashes and Miriam”

“A tale as enjoyable as it is immersive. With Flood, Brennan McPherson proves himself worthy of telling a story as old as time in a bold and fresh way.” 

– Billy Coffey, author of When Mockingbirds Sing

I asked Brennan to include an excerpt of his choice and the reason he chose it: 

I chose the following excerpt (the Prologue) because it introduces the story—it’s written from an omniscient POV but the rest of the book is limited third person perspective, which means a much more personal read that what’s portrayed here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Start Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


At the dawn of Time were Three who were One. Creator, Spirit, and Word.

As the Spirit hovered over the formless waters, the Creator stretched out his hand, bidding the Word to begin an eternal Music that brought light and form to the universe.

Empty space shifted and became solid. Matter rose green from the elements, and the Spirit breathed into the green matter life but not awareness, and ordained that it should bear seed and spread across the earth suspended in the darkness amidst countless masses of flame and shadow.

Afterward, the Creator brought forth creatures not bound by root and soil. They held awareness but lacked will. Governed by the personalities imbued, they spread and multiplied.

The lights were divided, as were the waters, and the seasons. The earth crawled with life given dimension amidst light and shadow. Dew condensed and fell, sprinkling the ground with the scent of life. And the Creator saw that it was good.

But the Creator’s vision was yet incomplete, for the most beautiful themes of the Music still roamed the halls of Timelessness. So the Creator descended and walked the fields, gazing at all he had done in so short a span of Time.

He dipped, grabbed a handful of soil, and said to the Word and the Spirit, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over all living things.” So the Creator made man and woman in his image, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, subdue the world and have dominion.”

But the man and woman were not satisfied with dominion. They wanted to transcend the boundaries the Creator constructed for them.

They grasped fruit too high for their arms to reach and ate what they should not have eaten. They became aware of a second Music, of darkness amidst the Light, and they aligned themselves with that second Music, and death entered their forms.

However, even this faltering of steps was planned in the first Music that would sweep up the faltering into a melody more beautiful than any other. The Creator told the man and woman of this coming theme in the first Music, of a babe to issue from the woman’s womb—of the one who would be the undoing of death.

The man and woman travelled on and bore two boys. Yet neither were the babe to come, for the elder murdered the younger, and birthed within himself an Abomination bent on twisting humankind to evil purposes.

The Abomination knew of the babe to come and sought to prevent its arrival. The Abomination grew and festered, and brought others of its kind into the world, spreading ruin and darkness.

Hope faltered in the hearts of men, and it seemed for a time that the Light of the first Music might be eclipsed by the darkness of the second.

But there were other legends. Whispers passed down by those faithful to the Old Way. That before the promised babe would come another child, a foreshadowing of the one to come. A herald of righteousness who would see a burning world quenched.

And he would be called Noah, for through him God would bring rest to the world.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~End Excerpt~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For those who like obscure facts that are not reported in the Bible, taught in Sunday School or Church, go here to read about, 

The Flood is the second novel in The Fall of Man series. Now that you have had your appetite whetted with the above, let's investigate Book 1, Cain and Adam, a free short story in this series: 

A riveting and scripturally faithful retelling of the story of Cain and Abel that gives heart-wrenching depth to the world's first family.

The world's first murder was just the beginning. . . 

Inflamed by jealousy and on the brink of madness, Cain--firstborn among men--brutally beats his twin brother, Abel, to death. As the family struggles to believe God hasn't abandoned them, Cain flees into the wilderness with the growing fear that murdering his brother might have birthed an unstoppable evil. Soon, all of life balances upon one perilous question: is the monster inside Cain the gateway to godhood or the end of mankind?

The Fall of Man series explores Genesis 1-11 through a daring mixture of gritty realism and poetic fantasy that unveils the symbolism in the Hebrew Scriptures recording this fascinating period of ancient history. 

"This extra-Biblical fantasy novel gave Cain, Abel, Seth, Adam, Eve, and many other extra-Biblical characters a heart-wrenching depth. The action and character development are spotless. The struggle Cain has with evil is excellently done." --GoodReads reviewer

Here is what Brennan says about this novel, 
Cain is a Biblically faithful re-imagining of the story of Cain and Abel, crafted only after years spent studying the original Hebrew text and expert scholars' interpretations of that text. 
Beware: this book will challenge your assumptions and demand you suspend disbelief. Genesis is filled with fantastic truths--from the universe rolling off of God's tongue, to the Nephilim in Genesis 6, and the languages of humanity being confused in Genesis 11. 
Rediscover the ancient world through Genesis, and find yourself rekindled by the mystery of God's majesty.
Brennan was interviewed on the CBN.com network's 700 Club where he discusses Cain:

What others are saying about Cain and The Fall of Man series: 

"A stunning and captivating novel. Brennan McPherson's fluid prose and vivid imagination are a treat for the senses, bringing to life one of the Old Testament's most enigmatic figures." --Billy Coffey, critically acclaimed author of When Mockingbirds Sing
Gordon Robertson
"Cain is a wonderful novel that explores the 'what ifs' of the world's first family. Brennan McPherson explores the questions we've all had about Adam and Eve. 'What happened to Cain?' is just the beginning. Brennan writes in a refreshing style that makes you want to read more, and I expect this novel is just the first of many more to come." --Gordon Robertson, CEO of The Christian Broadcasting Network
William Sirls
"Orson Scott Card meets Stephen King. An imaginative debut novel that explores the first murder and makes us aware of the Cain in all of us. McPherson can write, and his beautiful language is both artistic and thought provoking." --William Sirls, best-selling author of The Reason and The Sinners' Garden
Bill Myers
"With literary skill and respect to the original text, McPherson weaves a terrific 'what if' story on the life of Cain, all the while exploring the depths of temptation, sin, and above all, God's unfathomable mercy." --Bill Myers, best-selling author of Eli
Charles Martin
"Thought provoking, well written, creative, highly imaginative, and all written within an honest attempt at accurately interpreting Scripture while allowing for creative license within the bounds of what might be possible. A smartly-paced debut novel. I think we'll be hearing more of Brennan and his stories." --Charles Martin, New York Times best-selling author of Unwritten and Water From My Heart
As an introduction to McPherson's writing, he has written a prequel to The Fall of Man series. Click on the title to download free this short story.

Before nations, tribes, or families existed, there was one man: Adam. Formed from the dust of the ground and the breath of the Creator, this is the story of how he came to Life and finally chose Death.

Based on Genesis 2 and 3, Adam is a fictional retelling of the creation and fall of man. It is both a standalone short e-book and a prequel to the full-length novel, Cain, which one reader called, "a profound, entertaining read...(that) offers real hope to the evil that crouches at our doorstep."

Download free and start reading today!

More about Brennan and his novels can be found at: 

To read an excerpt of Cain or Flood or to buy, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons below. Cain is listed as free on Amazon at the time of publishing this post:

Readers and reviews are an author's best asset, so I encourage any reader who likes reading in the genres of Christian science fiction and fantasy, to consider reading The Fall of Man series and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Star Wolf (Shattered Galaxy) by David G. Johnson

Molon Hawkins, a daring, free merc captain, earns his living navigating the dangerous borders between factions in the civil war that shattered humanity’s vast star empire. For the former scout captain and his veteran command crew aboard Star Wolf, most contracts are milk runs. Most…

When a routine rescue mission goes awry, Molon finds his rescuee, Dr. John Salzmann, inextricably tied into a web of intrigue that threatens to upset the balance of power in the galaxy. Can Molon and John follow the threads and discover the forces behind the plot? If so, what can a lone ship do to stop it? 

Star Wolf is the debut novel in the exciting new Shattered Galaxy setting by David G. Johnson, bestselling author of the award-winning Chadash Chronicles series.

The Guru's Review: 

Ever since reading Time For Change, Johnson's contribution to the Realms of Our Own Anthology where Molon Hawkins was first introduced, I have wanted more of him. Others readers felt the same way and so the pressure was on Johnson to create more stories that would develop this character further.

Well, I can say that with Star Wolf, Johnson has excelled himself and exceeded the standard set in his previous novels. So many of Johnson's author friends and readers alike have stated that this is his best work. I agree.

He is even proud of this himself, as he stated in an Author/Novel spotlight on my blog in October of this year,

I personally feel this book is my best yet. I am very proud of how Star Wolf turned out, and already from early reviews, it seems critics agree. I hope you enjoy reading Star Wolf as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Now with myself and other readers saying the same, this does not negate his previous works. Johnson has had a great start with the Chadash Chronicles, Saga of the Everking, The Woman in Blue. In these novels, he showed what a talent he has for characterisation, plot structure but especially world building. He is exceptionally skilled at incorporating a Christian/Biblical worldview into all his novels (not so much in The Woman In Blue). This worldview neither dominates or preaches to its audience but actually adds a welcome spiritual layer to these novels. Even non-believers have stated they enjoyed this inclusion and were not offended by the Gospel being incorporated.

Johnson explains the Biblical aspects of this worldview,

The main ideas I wrestle with in Star Wolf are: 1) What if the Messiah tarries in His return? We have no idea when Jesus will come back, so what will faith look like several centuries in the future if we are still waiting? 2) What if we discover alien life? There are many theories, but there is nothing in Scripture that expressly says there are NOT other life forms out there. How do they fit into the fall? How do they fit into the coming judgment and redemption? I wrestle a bit with those topics in Star Wolf as well.
As one who has read all his novels, I would consider that Star Wolf is the brightest jewel in the crown of Johnson's creations. This is an impressive introduction into the science fiction genre. It now shows that Johnson can virtually write in many genres: fantasy, mystery/suspense/police procedural/noir fiction and now science fiction.

Despite Johnson's fans of Molon Hawkins wanting more of this character, I was still curious as to why he wrote this novel. He explains,

I’ve always loved Sci-Fi but was never sure if I could write it as deeply as I write Fantasy. The main character for Star Wolf, a wolf-anthro named Molon Hawkins, came about as part of a collaboration I did with other authors in my Christian Authors Group, Iron Sharpening Iron. We each submitted a character and then wrote our own multiverse reinventions using all the characters from all of the authors. That series was call Realms of Our Own and the stories can be found on Amazon. Molon was my submission. The more I thought about the character, the more I felt driven to flesh out the “real” Molon, not as part of a multiverse, but in his own setting. I had an idea for a vast setting I planned for several different storylines, and where Molon fits right in. So I fleshed out the Shattered Galaxy setting and Star Wolf was born.
Johnson is known for his detailed world building. This novel is no exception. The universe he has created for this novel is multilayered, and comprising of many factions. These are developed from what he describes as The Shattering. Even this latter event could have a prequel novel or novella that describes it in more detail that would serve to provide a firm foundation to the world-building that already exists. For a novel of this length, I can see why Johnson could not explain much of what The Shattering is and how it forms the many factions of this universe. There is a brief explanation in the Glossary of this and it is beneficial to refer to this while reading Star Wolf. Like the Chadash Chronicles and Saga of the Everking, this worldbuilding is exceptional. It forms a solid foundation for the characters, plot, technologies and species/races to exist in. Quite a richness and depth.

Speaking of the Glossary, it would pay the reader to use this when coming across a technical term. Johnson has created his own terminology and it works well. Yet another component of his worldbuilding.

This novel moves along at a pace that has many twists and turns. This keeps the reader coming back for more or delaying what the reader needs to do in their reality. This is one characteristic of what science fiction needs to be. Star Wolf seems to be a blend of being character and plot driven. Johnson has a nice balance between the two.

As far as characters are concerned, Johnson has developed Molon Hawkins to the point where he is a believable character, relatable and one that everything pivots around. I guess it has to, seeing he is the captain of Star Wolf! He has definitely come into his own here compared to the introduction of him in Time For Change. I really like what Johnson has done with Molon here. Now he is a character you won't forget in a hurry. However, this is not to say that Molon dominates the plot. It is that every plot twist or arc seems to come back to him as he decides what happens next in the aftermath of the rescue of Dr John Salzmann from his prison torturers. From this point on, we are introduced to the many political, social and religious aspects that have developed from The Shattering. Also the many species of the factions and the positive and negative dynamics of them existing in their factional territories and with each other.

However, Hawkins has chosen a crew of many of these species or sophonts, as Johnson describes them (another example of the benefit of the Glossary and also the Known Galaxy map!). These behave with an acceptance of each other for who they are, (well, within limits!). This is a great contrast to the attitude of John's wife who hates any species who are not human. She is conducting research to cure one mutation (malmorphsy) that affects one particular species. Johnson has depicted the crew of Star Wolf comprehensively according to their species type and how they form, not just a crew but a community and family. I can see readers endearing themselves to the entire crew based on this development.

There are many memorable characters in this novel, not only in The Shattered Galaxy itself but especially the crew of Star Wolf. One such is Voide. I am sure this is one character that readers will either love or hate. She is one polarising character. I love Voide but would not like to be in conflict with her. The banter between her and John was very entertaining and John gave as good as he got from her. I reckon Johnson had many laughs while creating this character and her interaction with everyone she met!

The character of John Salzmann is a very important one. Due to his role as a crew member and subject of the rescue contract Molon accepts, everything that is concerned with him, his past, marriage, his faith in the Creator and being one of the Faithful (Theocracy of the Faithful) plays an important part of the plot arc concerning him. He develops into one very strong character and one whom I can see will be further developed in the next instalments in this series. He is one of my favourite characters.

It is this research into the cure for malmorphsy that forms the basis of the adventure that the crew of Star Wolf find themselves in. During all the twists and turns, Johnson introduces the reader to the technologies of this Shattered World, the various species and their traits and the background to the war that has followed from The Shattering. The reason for the research conducted by Elena Salzmann becomes pivotal to the war. The development of the cure for Dub's malmorphsy is well sought after as a future weapon against any species. I can see parallels here with what medical science is doing to reverse or eradicate genetic deformities in the human race or to enhance human abilities. Both are well described in Star Wolf. Johnson does this very well.

I loved the depiction of the angelic and demons as separate factions, the former as the Angelicum Host and the latter as the Daemi Legonate. The introduction of one of the Angelicum, Shamira as an undercover spy in the Provisional Imperium and then as a crew member of Star Wolf sets the stage for some interesting plot arcs in the next novel. So does some of the plot arcs that Johnson leaves open for this next novel.

True to form with Johnson's inclusion of Bible tenets is one where he has the Creator being for all races/species of The Shattered Galaxy. This would then include them in His plan of salvation. Not much hint of any redemptive issues in this volume, but there is potential for Molon and others. I can see Johnson having a field day with these redemptive potentials over the course of this series. I do look forward to seeing how Johnson develops the spiritual direction from the Theocracy of the Faithful in the next novels. I liked what he developed here in this debut.

What I found very helpful while reading this was the interview with Parker J. Cole on her The Write Stuff radio show. Lots of background info into this novel, the characters, the plot and The Shattered Galaxy. And of course, Johnson's writing and his passion for it. You can access it here.

The audio version of Star Wolf has just been released and for those interested, it can be accessed here. Look out for this cover on Audio.com: 

This is one series that I will flag to always keep abreast with. No waiting until later to read any future instalments. Johnson is on a winner with this one. A very impressive debut into the science fiction genre. I would not mind if he stayed in this genre at the expense of his other genres even though I love them as they are. 

Highly Recommended.

World building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Spiritual level 4/5

Story 5/5

Spiritual Enemy Level 2/5

Average 4.2/5 but as a whole 5/5! 

To preview this novel or buy, click on the BUY/PREVIEW icons below: 

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Guest Post: Ben Chenoweth and the Exegetical Histories Series (Novels)

Today I welcome novelist (amongst other things!), Ben Chenoweth. I discovered his books on Amazon and I was hooked on the premise and their exegetical background. Like Ben, I have found that Christian fiction can be not only entertaining but educational and these two go hand in hand. One of the facets of learning is that we have greater understanding and retention of knowledge when it is done in an entertaining way. Ben has done this with this series of Exegetical Histories novels (exegesis: a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially of the Bible). This is not just historical fiction but the provision of the background to these characters and of the books of the Bible that the characters were inspired and guided to author under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

But first a little about Ben: 

Ben Chenoweth lived in St. Petersburg, Russia with his wife and two children for almost ten years. He currently lives in Melbourne, Australia where he works at the Melbourne School of Theology as an Educational Designer/eLearning Coordinator. He enjoys reading, writing, music and playing computer games in equal measures. He has a particular interest in the intersection between theology and the arts. In addition to The Ephesus Scroll, The Corinth Letters, and The Rome Gospel, he has written a play based on the life of Saul (available for purchase here) and a musical based on the Biblical book of Esther (a free download of the 1998 performance at Lilydale Baptist Church is available here).

For those who might be interested, he lists C. S. Lewis, Peter Shaffer and Neal Stephenson as his literary inspirations.

Now sit back and let Ben explain the background to his novels and their exegetical basis. I am sure you will find it interesting and whet your appetite to learn about this background and message behind these novels and books of the bible they focus on. It can only strengthen your faith and provide a defence for the faith that Peter encourages in 1 Peter 3:15:
.....but honor the Messiah as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.
The Exegetical Histories Series
by Ben Chenoweth

In Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet exclaims:
I'll have grounds
More relative than this-the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.

Hamlet wants to catch out his guilty uncle by publicly re-enacting the events surrounding the murder of Hamlet's father. He (and by extension, Shakespeare) clearly knows the value of the Arts for putting things in such a way that they can deeply impact the viewer.

During my theological studies, one of my lecturers gave us students a choice for our main assessment: either we could write an essay on one of a number of topics, or we could submit something from the Arts instead, something that had come out of our theological reflection on the themes of the particular book we were studying. (We would also have to submit a short essay briefly describing that theological reflection, but the item of Art was the main part of the assessment.)

A few brave people did this. I recall that a couple of people submitted paintings, someone performed a song, and there was even a complete oratorio performed in multi-part harmony by a large group of Tongans! In each case, it was extremely moving to see theology expressed through the Arts.

What did I do? I wrote an essay.

Now, many years later, what do I remember: my essay or the theological Art? I can't even recall the topic of my essay, let alone the content! However, while I didn't take up that offer, the event really stuck with me. In fact, I took it as a personal challenge: to be on the look-out for opportunities to intersect Theology with the Arts.

So when a high school student in my Bible class couldn’t understand how someone who did not follow the teachings of the Left Behind series could be allowed to teach in a Christian school, I decided that something had to be done about it. To him, there was only one way to interpret the book of Revelation, and if you didn’t follow that interpretation then you couldn’t possibly be a Christian. That experience made me want to do what Tim La Haye had done: write a disguised commentary on the book of Revelation, but from a very different interpretational standpoint.

And so The Ephesus Scroll was born. The novel has two timelines and the action inter-cuts between the two, somewhat like Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon. The first timeline is set in 93 AD, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian. The action follows Loukas, a young Christian man, the son of a merchant, who travels to the island of Patmos, where he receives a scroll from Ioanneis that he is to read in the churches of seven major cities of Asia Minor. This Loukas sets out to do, but his mission quickly comes to the attention of the Roman authorities. Their attempts to stamp out an incipient rebellion, sparked by Ioanneis’ scroll, make Loukas’ journey increasingly difficult.

The second timeline is set in the recent present, mostly in St. Petersburg, Russia. The action follows Dima and Natasha, a young Russian couple, who come across a diary written by Dima’s great great grandfather, Nikolai, who was a Russian spy in Turkey in the 1880s. They read that Nikolai found a stone box containing a scroll when he experienced an earthquake whilst visiting Ephesus. They then look for and find the box itself, with the scroll inside still intact. They take the scroll to an expert in ancient manuscripts and the scroll is unrolled.

The reason for using two timelines is simple. It gave me the opportunity to answer the two central questions of Biblical interpretation: 1) what did the book mean for its initial readers and hearers, and 2) what does the book mean for us today. By the end of the novel, the reader has encountered a significant amount of historically based biblical interpretation, almost without realising it!

The second novel in the Exegetical Histories series, entitled The Corinth Letters, does a similar thing only this time with Paul’s two letters to the Corinthian church. Again there are two timelines, one in the first century and one in the 21st century; although this time the novel involves romance, document forgery, archaeology, and descriptions of delicious Greek cuisine.

The newest book in the series, The Rome Gospel, came out a couple of months ago. This time, the biblical books being addressed are the gospel of Mark and selected portions of the book of Acts. The novel is set in Rome, just after the Great Fire of AD 64, when there was intense persecution of Christians, which included the martyrdoms of the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter. Against that backdrop, Mark is writing his gospel (but not perhaps in a way you might be expecting!) However, the process causes him to flashback to significant moments in his life, including moments of personal tragedy, success, and abject failure.

If you want to discover more about The Rome Gospel, these two videos explain very aptly. The first is a short account while the second is a longer one with more detail.

To conclude, I trust that if you choose to read one (or all!) of these novels, you will find them enjoyable as well as informative. It is my hope that you will not even be aware that you are learning anything about the historical and cultural background to the New Testament; rather, that you get caught up in the story for its own sake. And that you will be deeply impacted in ways that only the Arts can do!

To purchase copies:

Paperback: Koorong Amazon.

E-Book: Smashwords  iTunes  Amazon

(However, note that the Kindle version of The Ephesus Scroll is not free at Amazon because I refuse to enrol my books in KDP Select which then makes it impossible to set a book to free.)

You can connect with Ben:

(sign up to Ben’s website for a half-price copy of the ebook of The Corinth Letters)

Thank you, Ben, for explaining the background to your novels and their exegesis. I pray any reader will gain an entertaining but educational account of Revelation, Paul's letters to the Corinthians, the Gospel of Mark and parts of Acts. May they have a stronger defence to their faith as a result.