Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Gourmet, Action-Packed Fiction!

The Enclave, by Karen Hancock, dishes up an all-you-can-eat buffet of drama, deception, intrigue and suspense. The layers of characters and plot deliciously entice the reader to want to know how the latest twist gets assimilated into the mix. The pages will be smoldering as you work your way through this multi-course meal.

The Kendall-Jakes Longevity Institute is a cutting-edge research facility in the field of the genetics of aging. Though the man in charge, Parker Swain, has had some ethical problems in his past, the institute is now a prestigious place to work and study. The sprawling campus boasts learning and research facilities, a theater and even a spa for the ridiculously rich to enjoy the latest treatments in youthfulness and their pursuit of…well… longevity.

Lacey McHenry is Kendall-Jakes’ newest hire, getting her foot into the door as a research assistant to the brilliant geneticist, and rather absent-minded-professor, Cameron Reinhardt. She is also the victim of a bizarre assault, alone in the lab one night. However, all the “powers that be” are quick to brush it under the carpet and blame it on the history of mental problems that she suddenly discovers are in her file. Problems that weren’t there before, because they didn’t exist. Or did they?

The mind games being played are baffling, almost convincing. The only person that is willing to stand by Lacey is that quirky Dr. Reinhardt. However, he isn’t given much credence by the others, and is certainly not part of the hierarchy, because he is a born again Christian.

He is also a man running from a past that is all too suddenly colliding with the events that rapidly begin unfolding in the corridors of Kendall-Jakes. The conspiracy and the secrets that hunt down Lacey and Cameron have far reaching roots, and the two soon discover they have stumbled on just the tip of an enormous iceberg of evil. Faith is put to the test as the only way out of the mess will be divine intervention. Yet at times, God seems very far away.

Though it may seem as if I'm divulging too much of the plot, let me assure you that Ms. Hancock superbly builds her characters and their relationship, while weaving a very complicated tale. What I have shared is merely an elaborate dust-jacket scenario. In fact, one thing I loved about the book was that it was so long! At nearly 500 pages it has a lot to digest-- which I appreciate when a story is as well written as this. I just don’t want a really good book to end (sigh!). I get attached.

Finally, I truly applaud the author’s ability to intertwine the elements of Christianity without it feeling forced or obligatory. Some Christian stories greatly lack much substance in this area, though I realize it often depends on the narrative itself. However, Ms. Hancock managed to explain the plan of Salvation in a natural way, over the course of the tale; even a non-believer would have a basic understanding of God’s plan for redemption by the end of the book.

Finishing the book-- though bittersweet to have to say good-bye to the characters and intrigue that I craved--left me feeling very full of wonder and quite satisfied at the same time. I would highly recommend this well written piece of fiction to all of you other thrill seeking bookworms like myself. It is gourmet prose!

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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.