Monday, April 21, 2008

The Begotten 1: Intro

(I apologize in advance for this. For various reasons, some of which I'll explain later, I find it hard to take this novel seriously, though it's generally well written. But it does engage my gag reflex, resulting in reflexive gags.)

Lisa T. Bergren's The Begotten attempts to bring a da Vinci Code feel to a Christian novel. It concerns a Latin version of what appears to be a lost Pauline epistle--another letter to the Corinthians. The letter first shows up in the prolog as an illuminated text in progress. Though slated to be destroyed by iconoclasts, it survived another six hundred years, part of it being handed down from priest to priest. (That it was still legible demonstrates that they washed their hands first.) The epistle predicts the rise of the Gifted, a group of Christians with First-Century gifts: Wisdom, Discernment, Healing, Faith, Visions, and so on. (There are no ties among the gifts, to the relief of men everywhere.)

But there are also dark powers and semi-dark powers involved. As the story proper opens, a mysterious Sorceror is committing human sacrifice in a papal crypt, to the great annoyance of some knights of the Church. (It probably didn't sit well with the victim, either.) And soon we discover that both the Sorceror and his nemesis in the Church hierarchy, Cardinal Boeri, know about the Gifted and plan to use them for their own ends. The Sorceror hopes to turn them to the Dark Side and use their powers; the cardinal hopes to use them to advance his career (perhaps even making Pope) and return the papacy to Rome. (It was then touring Avignon.)

Anyway--Father Piero is priesting for a convent when he encounters Lady Daria d'Angelo, victim of a relationship gone sour. She's staying at the convent with her childhood associate Hasani, a freed slave who acts as her bodyguard. It's all normal enough, except that Piero has seen her before in an illumination drawn six centuries earlier.

Soon Piero, Daria, and Hasani are on their way back to the d'Angelo estate in Siena. Piero's gift is Wisdom; Daria's is Healing. No one knows what Hasani's gift is, but they keep him around anyway. Then they encounter some knights of the Church being ambushed and mostly killed by the Sorceror and friends, though Daria manages to salvage the leader of the knights, Gianni de Capezzana. (Trivia note: wines aside, shouldn't that be di Capezzana? Maybe it's Latin.) He apparently has the gift of Faith, which wasn't quite as useful in combat as ducking or common sense. He also has the gift of Warming up to the Pretty Healer While Trying to Act Businesslike, a gift more in evidence than the stated one.

Once they reach Siena, they beef up the d'Angelo security, get involved with local politics, and add a few more characters. Meanwhile the Sorceror and Cardinal Boeri show up (in separate vehicles, yes; carpooling be hanged), intent on tracking down the mysterious new healer (Daria) in the area, and through her, the Gifted as a whole. Daria isn't being quite as discreet about the occasional miracle as she could be, and there's a lot of confusion between her and the Sorceror, who also heals, though not in God's name.

Will Daria keep her secret? Will the Sorceror beat the cardinal to the Gifted? Will Hasani turn out to be brighter than the rest put together, at least in a pinch? Will the struggle between Good and Evil reach an electrifying climax? I won't answer any of these questions, but maybe I'll be a bit more serious tomorrow as I list some of The Begotten's strengths.

Other CSFF Blogs on the tour, almost certainly not as silly:
Brandon Barr
Jim Black
Justin Boyer
Jackie Castle
Karri Compton
CSFF Blog Tour
Gene Curtis
D. G. D. Davidson
Jeff Draper
April Erwin
Karina Fabian
Beth Goddard
Marcus Goodyear
Todd Michael Greene
Michael Heald
Christopher Hopper
Joleen Howell
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Mike Lynch
Terri Main
Melissa Meeks
Pamela Morrisson
John W. Otte
Ashley Rutherford
Chawna Schroeder
James Somers
Rachelle Sperling
Stuart Stockton
Steve Trower
Speculative Faith
Robert Treskillard
Laura Williams
Timothy Wise


Kait said...

Ha ha ha! This review totally made my night! You're hilarious!

Christopher Hopper said...

So I'm very interested in hearing about what specific toothbrushes caused you to throw up in the shower (at least that's what's the most frequent cause of accidental gaging in my life!).


Terri said...

I found myself enjoying the book, but also being troubled by some things in it. Today I did my literary review and tomorrow I'm going to do a theological/philosophical review. As a Pentecostal believer who has witnessed a number of healings not only in my own life, but others as well as miracles, prophecies, etc. I found it hard to get behind the whole "Gifted" idea as being some sort of once in a millenium kind of thing as it was presented.

I did love your fun way of hitting some of those elements that are a bit funny.


Steve said...

I should have mentioned that my background is Pentecostal, and I'm not hostile to the on-going use of the gifts. According to Bergren's notes, the Gifted represent Christians in general, so I don't have too much trouble with the idea of the Gifted rising up and using the gifts.

Anyone familiar with church history knows that Christians have been exercising the gifts from the beginning. It's not at all hard to find healers, prophets, and so on.

Terri said...

Well, I'm Pentecostal,too. One thing that disturbed me reading the book was the suggestion that somehow the gifts had gone dormant for some time and that they were rare. The Bible says signs and wonders will follow those that believe. Indeed, it implies that the "miraculous" should be an ordinary part of the Christian life. I became more comfortable with the theology as I read the book. I was worried at the outset that the 'gifted' would turn into some sort of spiritual legion of superheroes. Fortunately, that didn't happen. However, there was still this implication that only these few people could operate in the spiritual gifts when I Cor. 13 implies that all Christians possess some gift whether dramatic like the gift of healings or something more "mundane" like the gift of helps.

I guess I'm overly critical because I have taught and written about the Gifts for nearly 35 years.

Still. I enjoyed the book almost against my will.


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