The weak points of Tom Pawlik’s Vanish are annoyingly hard to explain. And I'll break precedent by taking issue with something that almost certainly isn't Pawlik's fault.
Design. I was tempted to write "unintelligent design," but the designer is likely a wonderful person who for some reason likes goofing up books. I don't usually complain about such matters--others cavil at covers; I don't--but here the "design" creeps into the book as such. Covers, I ignore; pages, I can't. And here the upper part of the right page is smudged (something I can do for myself, thank you) and the first page of each chapter is presented in an odd, narrow-column format that I found distracting. But again, I doubt that's Pawlik's fault, and I generally concentrate on the text.
Double, double... Things are not as they seem, and sometimes a character turns out to be an impostor--that is, it's really one of the gray things impersonating the other person. But there is a character that simply is two different entities, a human being and a spirit being--and the spirit, though mostly malevolent, sometimes seems to be pointing Godward. (For those who've read the story, this is the character who has the final line.)
Clever, not deep. The ending is clever--it's funny, in a macabre fashion--but a deep ending might involve someone, perhaps a boy, entering the room and saying, "One of your friends asked me to visit you. We need to talk."
A life-and-death issue. This is the major drawback for me, and I'd bet that hardly anyone will notice it because it's more assumed than stated. It's the idea that near-death is death, that God can't truly reach beyond normal consciousness.
(Someone will cry foul here, based on a rescue scene near the end. But that is more a physical than a spiritual rescue, postponing matters until a normal decision in normal circumstances can be made.)
If someone is fatally injured and lingers briefly in a coma, apparently cut off from the world around him, is he as good as dead? Or can God reach him in those last moments? If God can't reach him, then perhaps we may as well pull the plug on anyone in a coma. There are two arguments against this.
First, there are numerous cases where God dealt with people in their sleep through dreams. If he can do that, he can reach someone vegetative or in a coma.
Second, there are biblical references to our inability to prolong life. In Matt. 6:7, Jesus says we can't add an hour to our lives by worrying; in Eccl. 8:8, we read that since we can't retain our spirit, we can't control death--in context, we can't prolong our lives. So if someone is on life support, we can't prolong his life with all the gadgets; when his time comes, he'll die, no matter what anyone tries. But we can hasten death, and that's what happens when we pull someone's plug. As long as someone is alive, he can be reached; ending his life prematurely is wrong. The writer seems ignorant of this, as many Christians are. Is it any wonder abortion is still legal when even Christians can't understand the nature of such actions?
Conclusion. However, I doubt most people will notice this line of thinking, and otherwise it is a good story well told. So while I think it could easily have been better, it is still well above average and definitely worth a look.
Again, for anyone interested, my novella Galatea is available for download in PDF form.
Let's have a last look at this month's tour...
CSFF Blog Tour
D. G. D. Davidson
Todd Michael Greene
Rebecca LuElla Miller
John W. Otte
Donita K. Paul
Rachel Starr Thomson
1 year ago