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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

CSFF Tour, Day 2: Sharon Hinck, The Restorer

Welcome to Day 2 of the CSFF Blog Tour focusing on Sharon Hinck's The Restorer. Before we get to business, I've been feeling restless in spirit about something, and I want to address it here, if briefly.

The purpose of the blog tour, as I've understood it, is to make folks on the Internet and elsewhere more aware of Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction. We do this by concentrating on an author, book, website for a specific period of time--which gets blog-tracking sites like Technorati to notice, and so...hopefully will the public. Those of us who are involved are avid readers of SciFi and Fantasy, and we'd all like to see more Christian-friendly fiction available. We'd also like to see the secular world drawn closer to the King of Kings through the fiction we write and promote.

When we do a Tour, we introduce the author(s) and the book(s), we do interviews, we do behind-the-scenes-features, we post art and photos, and yes, we review the books. The last couple of book blog tours, however, have troubled me a little bit. I think some of the Blog Tour participants have forgotten the purpose of the tour. I've read some absolutely scathing reviews of some of the books we've featured. Use of sarcasm, condescension, and belittling is common--without apology, I might add--in such reviews. And in a Christian community, that bothers me. I think reviews like these promote division in the body of Christ, not academic honesty as is the purported excuse for such reviews.

I think there's a problem with most extremes, and book reviews on the Blog Tour can fall into one of two extremes, both problematic, but not equally so.

1. The Blind Praise Review: This is when the reviewer gushes on and on about how spectacular a book is--even when it's not. The book might be good, but not great, and yet the reviewer sings a hallelujah chorus of spectacular joy over the story, the character, the settings, everything is perfect. The author of a blind praise review comes off as a flatterer, and in so doing, loses the reader's respect.

2. The Flame: This type of review basically hammers a book from top to bottom, never considering the merits that are there. Often, harsh criticisms are rendered with little or no rationale. Even when ample rationale is present, the review still has the tone of a hatchet job. It feels like a personal attack. The author of a "Flame" review comes off as spiteful or perhaps as an intellectual snob, and in so doing, loses the reader's respect.

In my humble opinion, I don't think either kind of review is appropriate for the Blog Tour. Most people don't like either one. Most people will give more credence to a balanced review--one that seeks the positives without ignoring the negatives. I think that is what we should strive for. Be honest, be fair, be critical--but all in love.

Remember, the authors of the books reviewed here are people--nice people--who have feelings. And most of the authors like to visit these blogs and contribute a lot of insight from which we all benefit.

I'd like to end my rant with this advice for some of the folks on the tour who have published recent "flames"---like my mother used to say: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."

And now, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast!

I said yesterday that Sharon Hinck's The Restorer could change the Fantasy Genre forever. Big claim, that. But seriously, let's consider the Fantasy Genre. Prior to the last 15 years, who read fantasy? Mostly guys, right? When I went to the Trilogy Tuesday Showing of all three Lord of the Rings Movies, who else did I see camping out for tickets? Mostly guys. But things are changing. Lots and lots of men and women of all ages are discovering or rediscovering fantasy. And this is a good thing. The more people who discover fantasy, the more titles we fans get to read. The more hopeful writers become authors. The more great communities like the CSFF Blog Tour spring up. It's all good.

Sharon Hinck has just thrown wide the doors to this great genre for a population that typically doesn't read SpecFic. Soccer moms, homemakers, stay-at-home-moms--whatever the title, now have an invitation to come and read. And once in the door, we all know what happens. Someone handed me a copy of The Hobbit in 6th grade. I read it, and it was all over. A fan for life I became. The Hobbit was my "gateway" read into the Fantasy Genre.

The Restorer will be a gateway for thousands more. Great work, Sharon. Keep writing for the King!

In conclusion, I thought it might be fun for those who come by here to post about your own "Gateway" book. What fantasy/sciFi book made you a fan of the genre? What hooked you?


Monday, June 18, 2007

CSFF Tour, Day 1: Sharon Hinck, The Restorer

Knights and Ladies, Hear Ye, Hear Ye! On this day, the 18th of July, in the year of Our Lord 2007, I bring you good tidings: The Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour has rolled into town once more. And over the next three days, you will come to know an author and a book series that may change the Fantasy Genre forever.

A brief introduction of Author and Story:

Sharon Hinck is one of those people you just instantly like. She's smart, she's genuine, and she has that unique kindness that can only come from the Lord. And though she'd no doubt blush and wave off such speech, being the humble one that she is, I want folks to know, you will not find a more sincere Christian in this world. She knows her own frailties, and she knows His voice. All these qualities are woven skillfully into the first books in The Sword of Lyric Series: The Restorer.

The Restorer borrows a thread from Narnia in that you have a portion of the story anchored in this world--reality, 2007, etc. But the bulk of the story takes place elsewhere. And I mean an elsewhere you haven't seen before. Very cool settings, crossing genres between scifi and fantasy in an innovative way. The story is about Susan, a soccer mom. She's got her hands full. She's struggling. She feels woefully inadequate to be a wife, a mother…or a Christian. But the most powerful aspect of Susan for me is that she reveals a side of Christian Life that most of us are afraid to reveal lest we be deemed less spiritual by our peers, or worse, branded "unsaved." You see Susan feels disappointed by God. She wonders about life, "Is this all there is?" Now, I'm a guy's guy, far from a soccer mom, but I found myself connecting with Susan on many different levels. And I wanted to cheer as I read about Susan's faith struggles because, people, faith is supposed to be a struggle when you live in a fallen world. I would go so far as to say that if everything seems to be going your way for a long period of time: a) watch out because life is about to fall all over you OR b) could it be that you are too close to the world? Jesus said we would struggle. And Susan lives the real world struggle right there for us, offering us hope that we're not alone in this.

Again, I think that Susan is this way because the author has lived it. And I have to tell you, open up The Restorer, and get ready for some late nights of reading! You won't be putting it down too soon.

I mentioned that I thought The Restorer could change the fantasy genre forever. More on that tomorrow.

One final Food-for-thought:

I was at the beach recently, and I brought four books with me: three New York Times Bestsellers, and Sharon Hinck's The Restorer. Out of the four, I read The Restorer.

Nuff said.