Sunday, January 29, 2006

Book Review: The Believer by Stephanie Black

I just finished reading Stephanie Black’s The Believer, LDS futuristic fiction. I hesitated to read it because I have not been overly impressed with LDS fiction in the past. In fact, I used to do book reviews for a local paper 20 years ago. They wouldn’t print my reviews of LDS fiction because I had a bad habit of pointing out plot holes, stuffy dialogue, and trite, sappy endings.

But I was sick last week and bored out of my mind, so I decided to give The Believer a chance—and I am so glad I did! Futuristic fiction, science fiction, fantasy—these are my guilty pleasures. While it’s getting harder to find G or even PG stories in these genres, I still hesitated to try an LDS version. It would be like a Belgium chocolate connoisseur biting into a Hershey bar.

The Believer is set in New America, a country founded by violent separatists. Big Brother is alive and well in New America, where possession of religious pamphlets can land you in jail for years and people are blacklisted for speaking their mind.

Ian Roshek is a history professor who reads a contraband copy of the Book of Mormon and believes it. As he tries to live by its teachings, Ian comes slap up against the very worst of his society—secret combinations, terrorism, corrupt government, and mob mentality.

I liked the plot. There were plenty of twists and turns. I knew what was coming most of the time, but not so far ahead that it bothered me. And I have to say, I’m unusually good at guessing plots. My family often gets perturbed with me for telling them the plot twists and endings five minutes into a TV show or movie.

I liked the characters. They were believable. The ‘good guys’ weren’t lily white and while several of the ‘bad guys’ were just plain evil, others were simply weak and misled. I found myself wondering if I would have the courage to make the same decisions Ian made.

Dialog was natural, not stiff. Character voices were individualized. Emotions and reactions were real. Cause and effect events flowed naturally from one to another, not manufactured for effect. I especially liked the way Stephanie wrote of Ian’s religious beliefs and even quoted scriptures without beating the reader with a conversion stick or baptizing all her characters.

There were a couple of little glitchy places in the book, where I thought, “No, that doesn’t work…” but I enjoyed the book so much that now I can’t remember what they were.

I whole-heartedly recommend The Believer for anyone who likes futuristic fiction. This book is appropriate for teens as well as adults.

And Stephanie, if you’re not at your computer writing the sequel right now, get there fast! I can’t wait to read what happens next.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Now I want to read this book! :)