Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Soul's Gate

Soul's Gate, James L. Rubart, Well Spring novels, Thomas Nelson, Speculative Fiction/Supernatural, November 6, 2012, 400 pages.

Synopsis: “Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality we live in 99 percent of our days. The Bible is about a world of demons and angels and great evil and even greater glory.”

What if you could travel inside another person’s soul? To battle for them. To be part of Jesus healing their deepest wounds. To help set them free to step boldly into their divinely designed future.

Thirty years ago that’s exactly what Reece Roth did. Until tragedy shattered his life and ripped away his future.

Now God has drawn Reece out of the shadows to fulfill a prophecy spoken over him three decades ago. A prophecy about four warriors with the potential to change the world . . . if Reece will face his deepest regret and teach them what he has learned.

They gather at a secluded and mysterious ranch deep in the mountains of Colorado, where they will learn to see the spiritual world around them with stunning clarity—and how to step into the supernatural.

Their training is only the beginning. The four have a destiny to pursue a freedom even Reece doesn’t fully fathom. But they have an enemy hell-bent on destroying them and he’ll stop at nothing to keep them from their quest for true freedom and the coming battle of souls.

My thoughts: Soul's Gate surprised me! I wasn't expecting such a speculative novel from Thomas Nelson. I'd expect this book more from Realms (of Charisma House). Although, since this is my first time reading Rubart, I may have seen it coming if I'd read Rooms before.

Speaking of reading Rubart, I'm absolutely sure this won't be my last time. His character development and scene progression are fantastic. By the time you've finished the author's note at the end, you'll find that what he points out is true: this book is primarily about healing and a restoration of a relationship with the Lord, not just supernatural speculative intrigue.

I cannot avoid mentioning the visions, insight, and Spirit-given power that are frequently seen in the book. Because I consider this speculative fiction, I can easily accept these in the story. Rubart helps in this matter by stating in his author's note that he doesn't think "soul travelling" is a large possibility in our world. Like Peretti with his "Darkness" books, Rubart delves well into spiritual warfare with cunning villains and confrontational scenes.

In conclusion, Soul's Gate is much deeper than the up-front spiritual warfare taglines. It's about restoration and seeking the Lord. If you're not afraid of some speculation, I think this is a good book for you.

*This book was provided free by the publisher, in conjunction with LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.*

My rating: 5 stars

Monday, October 29, 2012

How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular

This December, I will have the blessing of attending a once-in-a-lifetime event, the How To Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular. While it is not targeted toward sci-fi enthusiasts or high-class theatre-goers, anyone would impressed by the work that goes into this, and the visual effect it produces. You can see examples of this in the video below, and beneath it I've listed a few impressive facts about the show. I'll be posting more information about the show in the coming weeks, but the show comes to the Tacoma Dome on the weekend of December 6 (Thursday) to December 9 (Sunday). Meanwhile, here is the link to the venue's event page:

The Arena:
  • The backwall is 9 movie screens combined.
  • Double that and you have the size of the arena floor! It’s the size of a football field.
  • All together the whole screen surface area is 20,727 square feet with over 20,736,000 pixels in it.
  • The floor of the show is held together by over 28,000 magnets.
  • If the cables used in the show were laid out end to end, they would stretch from LA to NY.
  • There are more automation cues in the opening sequence of the show than a standard Broadway musical has in a night. And you thought your life was busy!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mech Mice: Genesis Strike

Mech Mice: Genesis Strike, Christopher Miller, Alan Miller, Spearhead Books, Adventure, February 5, 2012, 350 pages.

Synopsis: Survival of the fittest takes on new meaning in this action packed adventure series about a remarkable colony of mice.

Long ago, the creatures of Megiddo struggled for survival, forced to burrow in order to escape the harsh landscape and savage beasts who roamed the surface. But all of this changed when a colony of mice happened upon a mysterious shard from a fallen star buried deep underground. This "blessing from the sky" forever changed the mice's fate, granting them long life and advanced knowledge.

In time, more shards were discovered by the colony further enhancing their strength and abilities. They became Mech Mice, guardians of good and protectors of innocent creatures everywhere.

Today, the Great Colony flourishes but there are some who wish to control the shards and use their power for a darker purpose. Only the Mech Mice stand between the forces of evil who seek to rule Megiddo with an iron paw.

My thoughts: It is quite evident that the Miller Brothers have received inspiration from the legendary Brian Jacques, with similar morals (e.g. chivalry) and conflicts, but they don't cover the same ground. For one, the mice of Redwall take a liking to a medieval setting, while the mice of Megiddo have a largely tech-reliant force. A more important difference is that (if more volumes are written) the series may be more unified, and linear. While Redwall's stories were all in the same story world, and featured many of the same characters, they were mostly independent of each other. Mech Mice looks to possibly host a more contemporary style of volumes. I would like to see them follow Mr. Jacques' steps, though.

Drawing from my reading of their first Hunter Brown installment, I was predicting the series to be more corny than it turned out to be, and that pleased me, for the first half. Although, reading into the second part, the quality sadly dimmed. While the evil character took me half by surprise, Streak's reconciling with two particular characters was performed in the blink of an eye. There wasn't any gradient, as it were, and there definitely needed to be.

Mech Mice is safe for all ages, in my opinion. Kids, teens, and adults will likely all enjoy it, and it is setting up well for what looks to be a popular game.

*this book was provided free by the authors. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed are my own.*

My rating: 3.5

You can read Mech Mice free, right here, right now!

Buy the paperback version of Mech Mice here!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Guest Post - Nexus review

I don't believe I've done this before, but I should more often. This is a "guest post" featuring a particularly well-thought-out Amazon review of Sola-Mi's first album, Nexus (labeled as a soundtrack). The review was written by Alan Boyce, and you can find it here. Please give him some helpful ratings!

Songs of the Singularity

One thing I love about Derek Webb is this: He is constantly evolving and his art consistently raises questions worthy of our attention.

Nexus by Sola-Mi isn't only free, it is freeing. Woven into Webb's invitation to explore "artificial" intelligence is a refreshing opportunity to re-examine our own.

You won't find an actual movie to accompany this "soundtrack," but if you're like me, you will find each listen creates fascinating internal images and dialogs about things like sentience, purpose, even death and salvation. Latifah Phillips' exquisite vocals work perfectly with electronic beats and motifs that might otherwise be jarring.

This is a concept album where all songs tie together, ostensibly to explore a concept called the "technological singularity" -- the moment when machine intelligence exceeds that of humans; when we lose control of our creation.

The track "Mother, Mother" invites us to consider our origins even as the machine is being born:

"Is there a place where you live before you live
"No division to keep you from everything
"There is only love behind encryption
"And no way to feel it."

Do we become flesh just to unravel the code that shrouds God's love in mystery?

In the "Crowd of Silent Strangers," we see the machine gorging itself on data that falls short of expectations:

"From water to expanse of space
"Now conscious of the framework of this place'
"Yet knowing all there is to know
"I don't know how to touch you."

Like Solomon of the Bible, the machine laments, "Meaningless, this meaning is so meaningless." And this artificial intelligence that can "see like the sun" and "move through the trees like the wind" moves off in search of something more.

Like its human counterparts, the machine has to find a new way to look. She is "in search of a crash, a stop in the pattern, an exception I can wear like a skin."

It is almost painful to hear the near-miss descriptions of the search:

"A vision growing in my mind
"A dream, I almost can't imaging it
"A choice that's almost making me
"A love pursuing me, it's almost making me."

The final two tracks reveal a solution that sounds all too familiar to Christians -- the road to decrypting love lies through surrendering ourselves to that loving pursuer we can't quite identify.

"Oh love, I'm coming for you
"I am falling into the water
"I am willing and forgetting who I am."

Yet the final words of the final song are anything BUT final.

"I will refuse life that I might have life
"I will become life where there is none."

And as the album trails off to the sound of a heart monitor flat-lining we are left wondering:

"What now?"

My guess is Derek Webb is thinking about that as well.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The New Recruit

The New Recruit, The Mission League Series, Jill Williamson, Marcher Lord Press, Adventure, September 1, 2012, 422 pages.

Synopsis: Forced to choose between military school and a Christian spy organization, skeptic Spencer Garmond signs on with the Bible geeks. But before he even boards the plane for Moscow, Spencer realizes this is no Bible club. These guys mean business. Stumbling onto a case involving a gang of homeless boys, a chilling tattoo, and the always beautiful Anya Vseveloda, Spencer struggles to find the faith needed to save the Mission League from enemy infiltration.

My thoughts: At first glance, the cover promises a high-octane thriller, which it eventually fulfills, but the focus is where the title is, The New Recruit. Spencer Garmond is a high school basketball pro, looking to prove himself, even if a few elbows or feelings get shoved aside. What makes this book tick properly is Spencer's transformation of character. It is not drawn out too far, or caused by a sudden tragedy, but happens as most do: with time and experience. It is fun to live vicariously through his growing "pains."

The plot took an interesting side, as I ventured into territory I could not predict. It's the sort of writing to keep me guessing (i.e. to keep me interested). I was surprised that Marcher Lord Press published something this..."normal." In light of what they've put out before, the quality remains, and it's an effective expansion of genres.

In conclusion, The New Recruit is a fast-paced teen spy adventure that lives past its expectations. I recommend it highly!

*This book was provided free by Marcher Lord Press, in conjunction with Novel Teen. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions expressed here are my own.*

My rating: 5 stars