Monday, September 16, 2013

An engaging but unique take on spiritual warfare and the afterlife

Received the following extremely rich and insightful review of my novel Elijah Hael & The Last Judgement earlier today by Peter Younghusband titled "An engaging but unique take on spiritual warfare and the afterlife. A great read." Worth reading if you have read the novel or thinking about it as he includes bits of conversations I have had with him.

"I discovered Steve Goodwin's books advertised on Facebook. I was immediately drawn to them after reading the plot and also because he is an Australian Christian author. In my Christian fiction library, I do not have many Australian Christian authors, so to find another who writes in the genre I follow is worthy of my support.

Elijah Hael and the Last Judgement is the first in a series of novels. This one concerns the death of Elijah from a bicycle accident. He finds himself in a strange place being interrogated over incidents in his past. Confused, he does not understand why this is happening. Another man, Castiel, interrupts this interrogation and takes him away where he is shown significant aspects of his life where Castiel and Elijah comment on these events. We see how these events, both good and bad, have impacted Elijah and made him the man he is. All these events range from childhood through to his death.

Elijah begins to understand that he is in the afterlife and Castiel is an angel. Through these observances of Elijah's life, clues are laid as to why this is happening leading to a decision Elijah has to make.

This comprises the first half of the novel. It is very absorbing. I could not put this half down. Goodwin seamlessly blends in various topics of dysfunctional family life, sexual promiscuity, (nothing graphic or descriptive), abortion, physical abuse, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, prostitution, that Elijah was an observer to with his family. Goodwin writes this without it being a hard read and successfully portrays Elijah's feelings and how he coped. Throughout this half, he also blends in the spiritual aspects of sin, the interaction of demon spirits in these sinful acts and the effects it has on the characters in the spiritual plane and how this is manifested in a physical sense, causing ill health, and how sin enslaves them to this lifestyle.

In this spiritual side of Elijah's life events, and those of his family, we are introduced to Sophia, his guardian angel and how through his prayer to God, she protects him from the clutches of the demons, (called Shadows). We are introduced to the boundaries that these angels operate under; not to cause physical or mental harm to their charge and not to interfere with their free will. They can influence their thought process or manipulate their environment for their good in protecting them but that is all. They also can only act with permission from their Higher Authority. To go outside these boundaries is to suffer a penalty.

This is one very engaging half of the book. It really does draw you in. You feel as if you are there with Elijah and Castiel as they observe and comment on the events in Elijah's life, you also sympathise with him during the negative elements and react against the injustice he suffered. You rejoice with him when he accomplished something good and when his life started to improve.

Reading the author Bio on Amazon and the author's blog/web page, you can see that this half of the book must be based on his own life, for he describes his childhood as difficult and upon talking to the author via Facebook chat, he states that, "I write based on my ideas and experiences". He does this extremely well. He also states that his past experiences "....developed a fascination with the nature of the supernatural, spiritual and physical words and how they affect the lives around us". This does add a lot of credibility to the plot and structure of this novel. That is a great strength and an asset and he draws on this very well.

Once Castiel is finished with showing Elijah his significant life events, he rewards Elijah with the answer to his question that Castiel has alluded to, that Elijah has to make a decision regarding his future. This is pivotal for the remainder of the plot. A huge twist occurs and one that is not expected or predicted by the reader.

The author states that this second half is, "....more artistic license, or the way I've come to know things." I will not try to spoil it by expounding on what the author means here by way of the plot, but it did cause me to question the author about this. I wanted to see what led him to take such artistic licence in this second half. I wanted to see what his sense of theology was and whether it was not based on the bible or some other New Age or non biblical source and to see if it aligned with what I had read of this author. I was pleased with his response. I have quoted some of his reply without adding spoilers.

One specific question I had concerning something I had not considered or entertained that Goodwin structured in this second half. My first thought was that this was a real stretch of theology and I was concerned that it would not honour God and the Bible but was reassured when he wrote,

"Hi Peter, there are fictional elements to my story. There is no way to know for sure the answers to your questions.....I come back to the statement in the bible, "Nothing is impossible for God."

I agree with this and I guess it comes down to the age old dilemma that there are things that we don't know about God and life and which the Bible does not cover or instruct on. I am reminded of the verse that says, "My ways are not your ways, My thoughts are not your thoughts,.." (Isaiah 55: 8).

He continued by saying further in his response to my Facebook chat:

"I don't write anything I don't believe is possible though. So to me, everything I wrote, is possible. Is it that way? My guess is things are a lot more grand in "God's World" than we can possibly imagine. Hope this makes sense."

I was reassured by all this. I can see that Goodwin is a man of character and integrity and has a heart that does not want to dishonour God in his writing. The account of the conversion of Elijah to Christ was very touching and meaningful and again, I believe it is based on the author's conversion experience. More credibility to this author here. Also, this is backed up by reading of the author's baptism account in his blog. That is a great witness.

The second half of the novel is one of action and adventure. More spiritual warfare and supernatural events. This almost reads like a computer game, and this is interesting as the author mentioned that he would like to create Elijah in a computer game, seeing the author is a software developer and has created an Elijah and the Last Judgement app for the Windows mobile phone. (Hey, Steve, what about us iPhone and Android diehards? LOL). This is a faster pace than the first half but no less of the "I cannot put this down" characteristic, which seems to be trademark of his writing. Don't change that ever, Steve!! This action and adventure half also has another subplot running through it where loose ends are tied up and tied up very nicely, leading to a sweet and solid ending that leaves you with the thought, "Wow, that was a great read and a great story!" I must confess, I had a book hangover after finishing this, I was still in the world of Elijah and found it hard to get back into holiday mode where I am at the moment!!

I can see the degree and positive effects of the influences of Tolkien and Lewis that have developed Goodwin's writing , creativity and imagination. It is very encouraging. I applaud this author for remaining respectful to the Bible and including biblical values in his novels. Highly recommended."

Thanks Peter, appreciate the time you invested in reading my novel and writing this in-depth review.

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