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Book Review: Ted Dekker’s “Circle” Series

I just finished reading through The Complete Circle Series (Black, Red, White, and Green) by Ted Dekker. Known for his faith-based fiction, Dekker has a large following for his fantasy/fiction approach to retelling spiritual battles. I picked up the Nook version of it and immediately dove in to the Circle (little inside joke, there!)

About the Book: I hadn't read any of Dekker's other works, so I was anxious to get started. I'd heard several good reviews of his writing, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. For those who haven't heard of this series, the four books are cyclical, which means you can start on any book and still get the whole story. In this collection, Dekker includes an alternate original ending to Green in case you wanted to start with that book. This set starts with Black, and we begin with the main character, Thomas Hunter, running from mafia thugs and eventually getting clipped by a bullet that knocks him unconscious. When he awakes, he realizes he is either dreaming, or he has been transported to an entirely different reality. From there, he struggles to piece together remnants of his memory, but every time he sleeps in one world, he awakes in the other. Before long, events in one begin to affect the other, and Thomas discovers the worlds are more connected than he could ever have imagined.

My First Impressions: Starting with Black, I felt the story started off slowly once the premise was set up. The characters do get established well, however, and you begin to get a feel for them before the action begins to ramp up. And ramp up it does! Thomas finds he's not only stuck between worlds, but his very presence is causing drastic problems in both. It spirals deeper and deeper until he's not even sure which world is which. Throughout it all, Dekker weaves together imagery of heaven, love, redemption, and salvation into a tangible world that the characters can sink their toes into. The story also deals with a lot of modern issues of faith, some of which are clearly evident, while others are hidden between the lines. It is the kind of book that you could read once and thoroughly enjoy, or read several times and find more with each telling. I'm looking forward to finding more, though I don't know when I'll find the time! It weighs in at 1442 pages total, including the alternate ending and a few notes by Dekker. This is not a quick weekend read.

Nuts and Bolts: As a writer, I'm always analyzing people's writing styles, and The Circle is no exception. What did I think of it? In a nutshell, it's very well written. It flows smoothly for the most part, the characters are believable (if somewhat simple) and there were no glaringly ill-fitting parts. The dialogue left a bit to be desired, but then again, dialogue is difficult to get just right. I felt it could have used more contrast in speech between worlds, but otherwise, it worked pretty well. One of my pet peeves in writing is blocks of bare conversation where you can't follow who is saying what. There was only one or two spots where I had doubts of this, which is much better than most books.

Exegete: So what does it mean? With the obvious imagery and parallels with the redemption story of Yaweh and the Christ, most of the story is a retelling of the history of God's people. The falling away, the return, the struggle, and finally, the new covenant. I tried to map the story against the Bible accounts, and as best I could tell, they weren't exact. The similarities of certain scenes are undeniable, but I never got the feeling of "Hey, I know what happens next!" which is a good thing. It makes you think, causes you to think of how the story fits in with the stories you know, and at the same time gets you to question what you would do in those circumstances. It's familiar enough to draw you in, but new enough to make you think. I am looking forward to re-reading the series and drawing more meaning from it, though I would warn you, it's a work of fiction. Don't base your faith on something that wasn't designed to be a Bible commentary! But as a retelling of the redemption story, I was completely thrilled. It's just plain good storytelling, based on a framework of faith you know, but in a whole new way.

Overall, highly recommended.

Posted by Jeff Hendricks

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  1. I have read many of Dekker’s other books, but am just starting the Circle series. Happen to be starting with Green, so that will be interesting. Early on in the book I began to realize that not only is the battle between good and evil one that humans have been concerned with for millennia, but that there are real parallels between the messianic themes found in religious scriptures and the rescue motifs in folk tales. I’m sure great scholars have recognized such parallels over the ages but it was a very new realization for me. Clearly projecting the natural fears we all having trying to survive in this competitive environment onto resources we look to for rescue is most likely the primary theme of human existence. The question becomes, who do we look to in the 21st Century when the heroes of old have been unmasked as mere illusions of our collective terror. I’m opting for science, which tells us that we can look forward to a world manufactured by ourselves (since God is apparently dead) and over which we have full power and control (sarcasm intended).

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