Faith in Books: Hellfire

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Hellfire

By Jean Johnson

This is the third in the Johnson series entitled Theirs Not to Reason Why. Oh, how I hate to give a negative review, but I would only recommend this book if you liked or got into the first two. I am still trying to reason why Johnson has let this series go on so long. The first book (A Soldier’s Duty, see below) had wonderful possibilities but somehow I think she missed the mark. 

As I have said before, I love much of what Johnson writes – her romance is especially good. And she has some strong and capable female characters. In Hellfire, she gets bogged down in the science fiction details. I kept skipping parts, paragraphs and long explanations because they were, frankly, boring. There is little to no character development in book three. I was hoping for a grand finale but there is at least one more book. I will let you guess what would come after hellfire….

What did this book have to do with my faith? I have a tendency to want to be the hero. There. I said it. But in real life, I am usually the victim, nerd, awkward party, suffering servant….you get the picture. As a Christian, what is my goal? Certainly, it isn’t to be the hero. It is to be the one who serves, the one who suffers for others, the one who gives up one’s life in the name of Jesus. Just as Jesus did for us. Ia is trying to be the hero. You get the feeling that she will suffer eventually and she has given up much. But she is not really a servant in these books. Despite her attempts at being humble, she is going for being the hero — because she foresees that will save many lives. This world view is in direct contrast to the Christian view I should have.

Not recommended unless you have gotten into the series. 

Happy reading!

Amelia

An Officer’s Duty

Jean Johnson

An Officer’s Duty continues to follow the life of Ia who has several paranormal abilities including being able to read the future. The setting is in a space-traveling future. Ia has determined that her best attempt at saving the human race is to join the military and she has now been promoted as an officer. The first book left lots of questions unanswered and this book attempted to answer many of them.

Compared to the first book in Theirs Not to Reason Why series, Ia is a much more vulnerable and approachable character. In the first book, you just saw how a Marine might go through basic training and serve in space some time in the future. Now that Ia is an officer, the pace of the book slows down. We see her traveling home for a brief visit, preparing for the next step she must take to save humanity and even falling in love — something she rejects as she knows this can derail her plans to keep the human race from being annihilated.

The main problem I had with the book was the main character’s trying to be humble when it just didn’t feel genuine. Ia is not a humble character. She is driven to save the world. You have got to have a certain level of self-confidence and belief in your own abilities in order to be a hero at least one time. Ia keeps being a hero again and again. She tries to act humble but it comes across as just that — an act.

What did this book have to do with my faith? How willing am I to do anything to save others? Ia has structured her whole life to save as many people as possible. As a Christian, I am to share the good news — the news that will save lives eternally. Yet, how often do I shy away from speaking to people about Christ? From forming relationships? Admiting I am Christian, much less a minister.? It is much easier to stay in my comfort zone. Ia has forced herself out of her own comfort zone to save as many lives as possible. Certianly, she has a formadible will and courageous strength. She is fully capable. Am I not as capable to share the gospel? What about you?

I recommend this book for Jean Johnson fans and those who read the first in the series.

Happy reading!

A Soldier’s Duty

By Jean Johnson

I loved, loved, loved Johnson’s Sons of Destiny series and was looking forward to this newer series by her. However, I have been mostly disappointed. Unlike Sons of Destiny, the Theirs Not To Reason Why series is not a romance but science fiction. I am fine with that. The main character, Ia, has paranormal powers. I am also fine with that. The problem with this series is that it does not feel personal.

Ia’s story is told from what looks like the perspective of an interview or an interrogation. The writing is written in third person with a few first person perspectives (mainly at the beginning of each chapter) highlighted in italics. I am currently reading the second book (review coming soon), so I am trying hard to stick with what is going on in the first book.

What I felt at the end was that Johnson had given a whole lot of details about life in the fictions future military but very little actual details on the main character. We get a vague understanding about why she has chosen to go into the Marines but we don’t get the picture of what she has seen that has led her on this path. What did she really want to do with her life but decided instead to do all she could to save the future of humankind? What were her true feelings – did she ever have any? I have to admit the second book gives a much better picture of her inner turmoils. 

I suppose the end result is that the book feels impersonal. It is more like a dry military report than a work of fiction. It is hard to cheer on someone when they seem to be more like a robot than a human being.

What did this book have to do with my faith? In this fictitious world, there is a new religion called the Church of the One True God. Christians are considered godless and polytheistic. I never considered myself to be a polytheist. But, in comparison to Judaism, Christianity does seem polytheistic. We do believe in the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Have you ever thought that “three-in-one” is kind of like believing in three gods? I really have been thinking about that lately — we have the understanding about the trinity because of a church council’s decision 1700 years ago. This is also where the Apostle’s Creed, the Christian statement of faith, came from.  I do believe in following the tradition of the church, but I wonder if Christians in the future will continue to follow that belief. On that note, what does an unchurched person think of our idea of the Trinity, anyway? How do I, as a follower, connect that belief with my understanding of one God? I think this is something I will continue to struggle with.

I would only recommend this book for science fiction or military fiction fans.

Happy reading!

Amelia

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