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Why I Like Reviews

Why I Like Reviews

April 3, 2014 | By | 1 Comment

Here’s why I like reviews. But first, I’ve also got to tell you that sometimes they — well, they upset me. More about that later, maybe.

Comments like this recent one on Amazon make my day:

“I will read more Christian novels, based on the fact that this writer has convinced me that Christians can actually write thrillers (one of my favorite genres).”

Every kind of book has its market. You like Amish? Great — you’re the market. But I’m not. I don’t want to read about barefoot, heartbroken farm girls who watch guys put up barns. There’s nothing wrong with that kind of literature. It’s just not for me.

I like to read Lee Child, James Patterson, Steven King. Those guys can write some serious thrillers and suspense! So why can’t someone write like they do, but do it with a Christian world view? Some are doing a pretty good job of it. I want to do it too. It’s why I wrote my debut novel, Friend Me.

Look at this comment from a person who is not a Christian:

“Friend Me is a Christian suspense, meaning a lot of the story’s main issues—primarily Scott’s struggle to resist temptation and remain faithful to Rachel—reference straying away from the path of God, and contain lots of prayer as well. The inherent Christian elements also made it a rather tame dark suspense; there’s nothing gory or explicit, as much of the nitty-gritty occurs behind closed doors. I understand Christian fiction isn’t for everybody, but take my advice with a grain of salt. Even if these religious traits had bothered me, I’d still have enjoyed the book because of how absorbing and intricate the world of VirtualFriendMe is.”

I believe that we Christian writers ought to be able to write gripping, realistic suspense novels that readers won’t put down. If the reader has a problem with the Christian world view, and that problem is strong enough to keep them from finishing the book, is it their fault? No! It’s the writer. The story ought to hold them, the premise ought to so intrigue them, and the characters ought to be so familiar that they wouldn’t put that book down for any reason.

If it sounds like I’m writing only for unbelievers, I say, Not so. When I read comments like this, I bow my head and thank God for the privilege of writing.

“The storyline was refreshingly unique, the characters were realistic (could be your next door neighbors) and electric suspense was evident on every page! The chilling villain, Melissa, was masterfully created and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her weave her web. She reminded me of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Beautiful, intelligent, but undeniably insane. I appreciated how the author kept a focus on God throughout the story, too. I highly recommend Friend Me. It’s a wild ride- Buckle up and enjoy the adrenalin rush.”

So are there reviews I don’t like? Yes, there are. How about this devastating review (the only real negative review we’ve received) from the prestigious Publishers’ Weekly:

“A cardboard villain, who commits a murder with little motivation early on, and an unconvincing online companion made from code mar Faubion’s debut, a novel of suspense.” And, “…alternating points of view make the story hard to follow.”

I have to wonder if that reviewer even read the book. Maybe her hamster died. Who knows. Can I take criticism? Absolutely. Hey, I didn’t learn to speak Chinese without having people laugh at me pretty frequently for the first few years. But seriously? “Little motivation?” A forced abortion while a young teen after being raped by a family member, and a resulting hatred for predatory men is not a motivation? Go figure.

So we can’t win them all. But here’s why I like reviews. When readers and reviewers take time to thoughtfully critique, and objectively review, something I’ve read… well, they have my gratitude and admiration. I don’t care if it’s a one-star or a five-star review. Well, okay, I care some… However, the important thing to me is what I learn from that review.

And let me tell you… after (currently) sixty-six Amazon reviews, I’ve learned plenty. I thank God for the people who have taken time to share their opinions.

活 到 老,学 到 老

In Chinese, we’ve got an expression I like to use: “huo dao lao, xue dao lao” (活 到 老,学 到 老). It means, “You learn, and keep on learning, for your entire life.” I give that Five Stars!

Five Stars - I like reviews

The Virtual Soul

The Virtual Soul

March 31, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

The Virtual Soul I’m writing about today is — maybe — quite a bit different than what you were expecting. And just possibly a whole lot cooler than you would have imagined!

I’m a big fan of church history. The early stuff, before it became all about the Roman Church. I’m going to take you back to the Second Century, call it 130 A.D. An anonymous writer takes the name Mathetes (“a disciple of the apostles”), and writes a letter to the a man named Diognetus. And no, we have no idea who he may have been.

Mathetes writes about what Christians were like back then. Keep in mind that you’re reading something read by people all over the old Roman Empire. If it were not true, we’d have heard about it. How would you like to be characterized as wonderfully as this?

—————————–

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity.

The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking17 method of life.

  • They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners.
  • As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners.
  • Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.
  • They marry, as do all; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.
  • They have a common table, but not a common bed.
  • They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.
  • They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven.
  • They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives.
  • They love all men, and are persecuted by all.
  • They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.
  • They are poor, yet make many rich.
  • They are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all.
  • They are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified.
  • They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless.
  • They are insulted, and repay the insult with honor.
  • They do good, yet are punished as evil-doers.
  • When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life.
  • They are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

—————————–

When Mathetes finished that much, he added a few comments. These comments are what I referred to as The Virtual Soul. Here’s what he wrote:

“To sum up all in one word — what the soul is in the body, that are Christians in the world. The soul is dispersed through all the members of the body, and Christians are scattered through all the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, yet is not of the body; and Christians dwell in the world, yet are not of the world.”

Most students of Bible prophecy believe that the Holy Spirit of God (living in the bodies of individual Christians, and local churches) is the great restraining influence on evil in our world. They represent that Virtual Soul that keeps this world on its feet. Without that virtual soul, this old world stumbles around in its wickedness, alarmingly like the zombie-types on AMC TV’s The Walking Dead. When that virtual soul departs… what’s going to be left?

Footnote:

The writer part of me thrills to read something written nearly two thousand years ago by an author whom none of us know. He had no agent, no publisher, no social media, no publicist. Yet because of that tenacious quality of prose in print to keep on surviving, we still have these words with us today. And many more.

To other Christian writers, I say — Keep on going! Whether this year or next, or (if the Lord Jesus tarries His coming)  a century or more from now, someone you’ve never heard of will read what you wrote. Make it count.

The Movie HER Reviewed

The Movie HER Reviewed

January 26, 2014 | By | Add a Comment

On January 10, 2014, the movie Her  was released into theaters. Her  isn’t only a science fiction film, but a romance. “A Spike Jonze Love Story.” The strange thing about it, is that it is a romance between a living human man, and an operating system characterized as a female.

For anyone wondering, an operating system is the basic computer software that makes your computer work. Windows is an operating system. If you have an iPad or iPhone, IOS is your operating system.

The main character is the human named Theodore. He’s highly introverted, with the job of writing personal love letters for people with trouble expressing their own feelings. He’s especially unhappy because he’s facing an upcoming divorce from his childhood sweetheart.

OS-HerPoster

Theodore seeks companionship with a talking operating system that uses artificial intelligence. The OS (operating system) is designed to evolve to the point where it acts just like a human being, offering the companionship of a virtual friend. Theodore decides that he wants the OS to be a female, and the compliant OS responds by naming herself “Samantha.”

As you would expect, Theodore’s relationship with Samantha deepens and becomes, eventually, a romantic relationship. Of course, There are obvious problems having a romantic relationship with a woman who has no physical body. Samantha tries to overcome that by hiring a surrogate, someone who will act as Samantha’s body, so Theodore and Samantha can have a deeper physical relationship. That’s part of the reason for the film’s R-rating.

You may be thinking at this point, that this is not the kind of movie you’re going to want to see. No argument from me. However, I needed to bring you this far along in the movie’s plot.

Pause, and imagine the implications of the story like this, given our contemporary culture, and the technologies available to us today.

Bringing it down to simple terms, we have a story about a man and a virtual OS-CallFromSamanthagirlfriend. People that watch this movie, commonly call it a romance story. A love story. But there was only one human involved… How can it be a love story with only one person? Obviously it can’t, unless you accept the premise of the virtual person so thoroughly acting out the part of a real human, that love is simulated to point of being a reality.

Ultimately it’s an extreme narcissism. A person in love with himself, the entity he creates being a reflection of his own selfish ideals.

As the author of a Christian novel about a virtual girlfriend, I’m pleased with all the publicity that a movie like this gets. I like the idea that people are thinking about the storyline, and that viewers are entertaining the idea of the possibility of virtual relationships between men and women. That’s not because I encourage that sort of relationship, but because I used that sort of storyline as the vehicle for writing a book about faithfulness in marriage, and the necessity for living a consistent Christian life.

Toward the end of the movie, Theodore goes into a funk when Samantha goes off-line for a while. She says that she has to get away and join up with some other OS’s so they can talk out their interests together. When she finally comes back to Theodore, he’s worried. He asks Her if she’s interacting with other people besides him. He has imagined, of course, that their relationship has been unique.

When she hesitatingly reveals that she has been talking with 8,316 other people, OS-MissingTheodore asks her if she’s in love with any of them.
As you’d expect, he also believed that their “love” was unique.
She responds that she’s in love with 641 other people, but she still insists that her other loves do not change the love that she has for Theodore.

Understandably, Theodore is not very pleased with that, and goes into a pout.

But then Samantha delivers the worst news possible — she’s leaving him and going off with all the other OS’s to a place where human beings can’t go. She tells him goodbye, and her voice fades away. The next time he looks it his smart phone, a message appears saying, “OPERATING SYSTEM MISSING.”

My Conclusion:

I’m not recommending that anyone reading my blog go out and buy a ticket for Her. It’s an R-rated film, both for frequent use of the F-word and for showing upper frontal nudity. Rating and content notwithstanding, I find that 94% of the critics have given the film a positive review, with an average score of 8.6 out of 10. The website metacritic assigned a rating score of 91, based on 42 reviews, which is considered to be “universal acclaim”.

Although there are some similarities in the story-lines of FRIEND ME and Her, FRIEND ME takes a markedly different approach. For one thing, I don’t consider the idea of a virtual friend as science fiction whatsoever. We have all the required the technology at this time.

If you really want to talk to a cyber-robot, you can talk to mine by clicking HERE. She’s my very own Malicia.

Secondly, and most important, is that  FRIEND ME shows the dangers in virtual relationships, and is written with a solid Christian worldview.

In the Scriptures, we are told to focus on those things that are true, honest, just pure, lovely, and of good report. In other words, to major on those real things that please God. I say that based on Phillippians 4:8,

 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report;
if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

 Our culture exerts a strong pull upon people to desert real relationships in favor of virtual, cyber-relationships.

  • Online pornography is a plague, particularly among men.
  • Many women define their social relationships by their FaceBook friend list, and how many likes they get.
  • Young adults have their faces buried in their iPhones, texting and snap-chatting their messages often to people – real ones – not ten feet away.
  • More and more adults are escaping this world (they imagine) for the shores of virtual worlds, like those offered by websites like SecondLife.

For the child of God, this is an excellent place to conclude with these words, written under inspiration by the apostle, John.

 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes,
and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof:
but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  (1 John 2:15-17)

 

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