Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness 3: The Bad Stuff

So what's the downside of Andrew Peterson's On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness? There are a few:

1. Needless vulgarity. The story practically opens with someone doing a face-plant in manure. That's a sign of things to come, though it isn't as constant as I feared. But the Fangs have disgusting taste in just about everything, and we do get to read about it all. Do we really need to?

Someone's bound to call me hypocritical based on my short story "At the Mountains of Lunacy" in the anthology Light at the Edge of Darkness, because it does feature a vulgar running gag. However, the gag is integral to the story: I can't imagine how to set up the situation otherwise, and it only occurs on-camera (so to speak) once, and even then in a non-graphic way. (I'll also admit that it's at the edge for me.) Here, the gross stuff adds to the atmosphere and characterization, but it's not truly necessary.

2. Disobedience. The kids apparently respect their mom and grandpa, but the boys in particular tend to disobey them in sneaky ways. They come close to getting eaten a time or so, but overall the results seem to justify the actions.

3. Bullying. If I had been reading this on my own, I probably would have quit about halfway through. Why? Because Podo, a generally likeable rascal, turns bully and begins abusing someone he must certainly know will not fight back. Your mileage may vary, but for me that's well over the line. It's true he has an irrational dislike for the character in question, but that doesn't even come close to justifying his own actions. (In fact, eventual revelations made his victim seem far superior to him.) I found myself hoping that Podo would expire, which should give you some idea how odious I found his behavior.

Theology. Those who are familiar with my reviews are probably wondering about the theological points. There aren't many. The Good Guys acknowledge and revere the Creator, and they do pray. There isn't a lot happening here theologically, but such as occurs is good. (In a story of this sort I think we can allow a low bar, especially for the first in a series.) Perhaps later installments will improve on that--I admit the theology of multiple sentient species is tricky, and I do wonder about the nature of the Fangs: are they more or less demons--the designated damned? Or can they be saved? And what is salvation here anyway? (The humans evidently derive in some way from Adam, so they do need a savior.)

But I can wait for more information. What is said is accurate, even if there isn't much of it.

So where am I on the story? I would suggest that a parent get the book and read it first. If that doesn't raise any problems, the next step is reading it to the kid(s). (Quit whining, you big baby! It's good for both you and the munchkins.) I will say that I'd be willing to read the next installment.

Other links on the tour:
Sally Apokedak
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Janey DeMeo
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Green
Jill Hart
Katie Hart
Michael Heald
Timothy Hicks
Christopher Hopper
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Rachel Marks
Shannon McNear
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
Deena Peterson
Steve Rice
Cheryl Russel
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Donna Swanson
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Jason Waguespac
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise


Christopher Hopper said...

Thanks for posting such accurate and non-fluffy words about your opinions here...the good, the bad and the ugly. I thought they were well reasoned points and, as I've suggested to a few of my readers, "Dad & Mum just need to read it first to find out if it fits in your own family style."



Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Good job, Steve. You always keep a level head and give a balanced review.

Interesting you brought up the theology aspect. We're having quite the discussion on my site about "Christian fiction" in part because of a comment of Andrew's which I quoted yesterday. Quite interesting.


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