Monthly Archives: November 2018

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge, by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin

Assassination of Brangwain SpurgeThe kingdoms of the elves and the goblins are ostensibly working to maintain a fragile peace by catapulting the elfin scholar, Brangwain Spurge, into the goblin kingdom in order to bring the goblin king a gift. Little does he know that the beautiful gem that he carries is actually a powerful bomb. His host, the goblin archivist Werfel, is also unaware of the danger as he proudly escorts Brangwain around his home and city for a few days before his meeting with the king.

Brangwain is thoroughly disgusted with goblin culture, with its inedible food and their custom of keeping as mementos the skins that they shed every few years. The archivist, for his part, is less than impressed with the elfin scholar, who rudely rebuffs all of his obsequious attempts to share the most refined aspects of goblin life. Furthermore, Werfel has discovered that his guest goes into a trance in his room each evening, and he suspects that he is somehow transmitting information back to the elf government.

This wildly original story is told in both text and illustration, in much the same manner as Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck. Anderson has written the prose chapters, and the story is deepened and continued in Yelchin’s black and white drawings across a succession of two-page spreads. The illustrations carry the key to the changing thoughts and attitudes of the two main characters as they begin to understand that reality may not be what they had been taught, and that good and evil exist in both of their kingdoms and in many of the people whom they thought they knew. But will they figure all of this out before disaster strikes?

What appears to be an almost comic fairy story holds deep relevance to our own lives as we seek to respect other cultures, but those who trust in governments may be disturbed. Reluctant readers will enjoy the fast pace and abundant illustrations. Despite being over 500 pages, it is a relatively quick read. Parents and teachers will find endless timely discussion points here. Brangwain is on everybody’s “Best of 2018” list, and you won’t read anything else remotely like it.

Recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

The Sea Queen, by Linnea Hartsuyker

Sea QueenRagnvald, hero of The Half-Drowned King, returns home after his battles in King Harald’s name, only to find that a distant relative has moved into his house with a contingent of soldiers. Atli claims that Sogn belonged to his grandfather. Hilda tells her husband that Atli is a pretty nice guy, especially since he killed the soldier who assaulted her, and Ragnvald can see that Atli is winning the affections of his sons.

In the meantime, his sister, Svanhild, has married Ragnvald’s archenemy, Solvi Hunthiofsson, and is fighting for the life of their fragile son. She wants to claim a farm in Iceland, but Solvi’s home is a dragon ship on the sea. Svanhild was always tough, but living with Solvi has made her stronger than ever. She will need all of her resources and intelligence to handle the challenges that could change this farm girl into the Sea Queen.

Frozen landscapes, royal courts, and stormy seas are the changing backdrops in this action-packed sequel. Readers may think that this is a fantasy story, but it is solid historical fiction in pre-Christian Scandinavia.  Hartsuyker returns to her fascinating cast of characters, weaving battle scenes into the ongoing drama of betrayals, love affairs, political schemes, births, deaths, joys and sorrows. Great storytelling for those of us who love the Norse.

Disclaimer: I read an advance reader copy of this title. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Finding God in the Waves, by Mike McHargue

Finding God in the WavesMike McHargue, or “Science Mike,” as he is known online, was a happy member of his evangelical church, teaching Sunday School, eating lunch with the church leaders, and leading his daughters to Christ. As a scientist, though, he eventually had to admit that he didn’t believe any of it. He was an atheist.

After Mike admitted his disbelief to his stunned wife, he was invited to a gathering in California with Rob Bell, during which he had what can only be described as a supernatural experience. He wasn’t looking for it, but it was a turning point in his life. From that day on, he began the work of examining every aspect of faith from a scientific and logical perspective and reconstructing the parts of his faith that he could accept. In this volume, he scrutinizes the existence of God, the origins of the universe, the humanity and deity of Jesus, the validity of the Bible, the practice of prayer, the church, and other basic Christian beliefs chapter by chapter. For each concept, he has written an axiomatic statement, saying what he can believe at the very least about each one. His beliefs are still far from what anyone would call orthodox Christianity, but his research is fascinating.

Mike has two websites, Ask Science Mike and The Liturgists, which he co-hosts with the musician, Michael Gungor. My niece, Hannah, had mentioned The Liturgists to me a couple of years ago, and I’ve listened to several of their podcasts. They examine issues of faith and doubt, science, culture, and art from a wide-open viewpoint that could speak to believers of any religion, spiritual seekers, and non-believers alike. When I read the book The New Copernicans (reviewed here), David Seel also talked about Mike McHargue and The Liturgists. When he said that Mike had written a book, I had to check it out.

Science Mike’s experience is different from most former Christians in that he loves the church. The vast majority of books written by the deconstruction/ reconstruction crowd recount intensely painful episodes that estranged them from the church and caused them to doubt God’s goodness or the truth of Christianity. In Mike’s case, he stopped teaching Sunday School out of respect for his church, but he continued to attend. After his podcast, Ask Science Mike, became popular, though, people started coming from far and wide to attend his church and talk to him. Services got weird. Eventually, his pastors came to him and basically said, “Dude, we love you, but do you mind?” He got it. His family left their conservative church and finally found one where he could ask hard questions and not always find answers.

If you or someone you know has doubts about God or spiritual experiences that need scientific answers, Finding God in the Waves could be a great starting point. Mike describes what happens in the brain when we pray, looks into scientific explanations of the origins of everything, and even describes his own evolution on several topics. The book is not an apologetic work in the religious sense of that word. Mike does not attempt to lead anyone to Christ and may even lead a weak person further away. However, this is a very friendly and readable account of one man’s pilgrimage toward truth.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book, obtained through interlibrary loan, after which I purchased a copy to share. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews, Christian Life