The Shadow and Night - Chris Walley - A+
Suppose modern Evangelicals have it wrong. Suppose that Christ's return isn't imminent and that He has no plans to rapture the Church. Suppose instead that the Lord ushers in a Golden Age in which the universe has been cleansed of Satanic influence and the corrosive effects of sin. Given thousands of years to build a harmonious society called The Assembly, mankind in Walley's speculative future has spread across the galaxy on hundreds of Made Worlds, planets made in Earth's image to host the thriving human race. On the edge of the Assembly lies Farholme, home to the protagonist Merral d'Avanos. After his teenage cousin witnesses a disturbing, unfathomable creature in the northern woods, events unfold that signal the end of an age of peace and stability. Evil has returned to the Assembly, beginning its destructive rampage on Farholme. As Merral and company confront the growing threat, they discover the problem reaches deeper than they'd like; sin has begun its dark march across their own hearts as well.
The novel's portrayal of a world free from the corruptive influence of sin strikes a chord deep within. The reader instinctively recognizes the "correctness" of Merral's world before the invasion, that is, life as it was meant to be. Men and women enjoy their work, receive rich pleasure from creativity and craft as they mimic their Creator, and thrive in relationships untainted by battles of the ego. This setting creates within the reader a sense of longing for such a world, and drives one to recognize what he/she has given up in order to enjoy the bitterness of sin. A true sense of loss is conveyed as evil corrupts Merral's world.
In contrast to many Christian protagonists, Merral has a genuine heart complete with all its resident contradictions. Facing evil for the first time, he quickly learns the "heart is deceitful above all things." Merral confronts his own culpability in the vilification of Farholme as he faces his own moral failures and weaknesses. His confusion about the changed spiritual landscape adds to a sense of reality as, for example, Merral ponders an apparent silence from heaven after he prays.
While some may complain, the book's length is sufficient to portray a culture characterized by innocence and ego-free human activity. A full and proper description combined with the reader's longing for such a state causes the reader to hurt and mourn with Merral as his world begins to unravel. Additionally, a well-crafted exposition serves to heighten the suspense and sense of horror about the invaders since the reader must wait helplessly as events unfold.
To fully appreciate this book, Christian readers must lay down their presuppositions regarding end-time events and be willing to entertain a post-millenialist view. Mature individuals should be able to hold several views simultaneously for any issue with substantial uncertainty and disagreement such as this one. An overly-dogmatic perspective sucks much joy out of the exploration of our universe.
Finally, the book's incorporation of science-minded individuals was quite refreshing. Similar treatment by other respected authors can go a long way in removing perceptions that Christians are ignorant of the workings of the natural world. Unexamined beliefs regarding Genesis have pushed Christians away from using science as a tool for proper exploration and stewardship of our world.