Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Book Review: Offworld is Out of this World!

Robin Parrish constructs a believable sci-fi adventure in his new book Offworld. Strap yourself in along with the crew of the Ares, the first astronauts to go to the planet Mars and return to Earth in the year 2033. But hang on tight as all communication with Houston is suddenly and inexplicably lost and the crew barely manages a crash landing at the Kennedy Space Center.

After that ordeal, Commander Chris Burke and his squad are badly shaken. But mangled space craft and exhausted bodies turn out to be mere hang nails as they begin to uncover why they had lost communication with Ground Control in the first place. Seems there no longer is a Ground Control. In fact, there isn’t any sort of any body left on the planet! All life forms have vanished; gone without a trace. Video feed from security cameras confirm that one moment everyone is going about business as usual, and the next they have absolutely disappeared.

The only inkling of hope is that there may be an answer waiting for them in Houston, where a bright radiating light gleams on satellite maps. Thus begins a heart pounding, wide-eyed trip, more dangerous than anything outer space can dish up! I could barely catch my breath as one disaster after another overtakes this bedraggled yet very brave crew of four (plus one…I won’t divulge more than that).

Mr. Parrish plows this tale through in a very straightforward manner, not needing layers from different angles of stratagem to pull it off; although there are occasional flashbacks that happen in real time. No doubt it would make a wild movie with some fantastic special effects… I had no problem seeing it as such in my minds eye. The characters are believable and heroic, causing you to care about them and cheer them on. Even the chapter names, names such as “The Smoke and Stir of this Dim Spot”, and “The Equivocation of the Fiend” poetically and intriguingly urge the reader to keep turning pages.

Though not overtly Christian in substance, the plot just screams that something bigger is at stake and Someone else is ultimately in control. In the end, the Christian worldview is clarified and the reader is given resounding and thought provoking ideas to ponder. Though most of the circumstances encountered are in no way realistic (at least not in such a non-stop, let-me-come-up-for-air sequence), remember, this is science fiction and in that realm, just about anything can and does happen. You’ll just be really thankful that it happens to these poor, fictional souls and not your own!

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At the Intersection of Creation and Evolution: A Dream

The alliterating story below is based on a dream I had several years ago. Please contact me for permission to reproduce.

Darkness devours me.

I am enveloped in emptiness.

Are my eyes open or are they closed? I strain against this shroud of night and still see nothing.

What is this place?

An image illuminates in front of me. A large, leafy tree streaks past and vanishes.

It deserts me to the darkness again.

In a moment, more images appear. A rapid succession of snapshots and thoughts clamor before my eyes and mingle in my mind.

I see seedlings. Several supple shoots have emerged before me and then swiftly stream away.

“The first trees on earth were not seedlings”, my mind observes. “They were not created as small insignificant saplings.”

That thought is rapidly replaced with a vision of a man.

He’s maybe 30; he is muscular and needs to shave.

He fades away.

In his place I see an infant.

A tiny bundle of pink skin upon a soft blanket flickers briefly in my brain.

“Man was created with age,” is the next statement I hear. “Adam did not begin his life as a baby, he began as a grown man.”

The voice seems like my own.

The thoughts do not.

Reeling before me now is a blur of rivers, forests, mountains and even layers of the earth. It is like a movie rushing rapidly before my retina.

The soundtrack of this epic is proclaiming a peculiarly plain concept:

“The earth was created with age. Creation and evolution are not in total opposition. There is a reason that science finds the earth to be quite old: it was made that way.”

Thoughts continue to tumble through my mind; pictures parade before me. I listen in amazement to what seems to be puzzlingly profound and yet rather apparent all at once.

“Adam was created as an adult. Trees and plants were made fully grown.”

I suddenly feel quite certain that, if I were to chop down some of the trees that had been spoken into existence, I would find a range of rings running through their trunks.

“The earth was brought to life with age built into it… just like Adam. He did not begin life as an infant. The earth came into being with what it would need to sustain the life that was created. It was old when it was young. The world was
made with maturity; it was also produced with purpose.”

These thoughts are thrilling. Why had I not seen this before? It seems so simple. Obtusely obvious. Had others not observed this correlation? If they had, why wasn’t it being candidly conveyed?

In the span of thirty seconds I have been ravaged by a radical revelation. I feel the weight of its worth resting on me; it is tantamount to tangible.

I am neither a theologian nor am I a scientist. I don’t claim that the ethics of evolution are completely compatible with the Bible’s account of creation. But certainly Science can come concurrent to creation and affirm our faith with facts.

Of course, the Omnipotent Originator of the Universe is exceedingly elusive to what our mind could ever envision. Above what science could ever extensively elucidate.

Accordingly, creation is confounding too. Each diverse discovery deems it more marvelous to grasp. Many scientists have reluctantly relented to the theory of Intelligent Design.

That’s why, alongside those facts, we also need faith.

Lying inexplicably at the intersection of those two essential elements is an exceptional endowment: the intermittent insight of our dreams.