Suspenseful and Meaningful Story, Problematic Premise
July 29, 2014
Michelle R. Wood
Suspenseful and meaningful, this story portrays real characters facing spiritual challenges with resolve and occasional beauty. However, it stumbles in the delivery, and a problematic premise robbed me of any real joy.
Author James Rubart is a capable wordsmith. Though some descriptions bordered on the cliche, he always delivered a fully realized, at times elegant vision. I became emotionally attached to the characters and their struggles. The final climax was appropriately built to and engaging, ending in a manner that was both conclusive but also a good hook for the next installment of the series.
While technically proficient, the narrative often leapt forward abruptly, sometimes by several days, with no real summary of what happened in-between. Inconsistencies in how special powers could be employed left me confused. The most compelling parts of the book were the spiritual struggles each of the four main characters faced; unfortunately, some of the characters' backstories became muddled, weakening their arcs. For example, one of the characters harbors two deep pains in her life: the death of her grandfather and the breakup of her engagement. But only the latter received any attention or level of catharsis. By the time her moment of spiritual discovery came, the grandfather subplot had faded to the point of meaninglessness.
Some might enjoy the frequent pop culture nods, but I found them annoying. Name dropping "The Matrix" within the first few chapters was a big cliche given the story's emphasis on a hidden reality only a few chosen could combat. Other references felt forced and were immediately explained, as if the author wasn't sure his readers would get the joke.
I freely admit the above complaints may be due more to my personal issues with the book's subject matter and the attitude with which it was presented. The book cover asks, "What if you could travel inside another person's soul?" The whole idea is suspect to me, but I'm willing to suspend my disbelief in lots of ways to enjoy a good story. Here's the part that really troubled me: this skill is preached as a spiritual discipline used by Christians to wage battle against the powers of darkness. One character described it as "true" intercessory prayer, leading the group to go inside another person to free him from past pain and hurt.
The idea is neat, though at times I felt like I was reading pages cut from "Inception's" screenplay. While that film toyed with the idea that such a behavior might produce beneficial results, it clearly articulated that entering into the subconscious of another was the work of criminals. I disagree with the idea that we as fellow fallen sinners can reach inside someone's heart and "fix" it. Using the name of Jesus instead of military hardware doesn't make the practice any less icky; if anything, it makes it more so.
I was also dismayed by the lack of respect the spiritual mentor character showed to his trainees. They're isolated, cut off from their coworkers, friends, and families, and put in embarrassing and painful situations solely for the purpose of "breaking" them. They are taught that all Christians who don't belong to this elite group are misguided and unwilling to embrace the full power of God. While I believe the author has good intentions, I can not endorse an approach that veers so dangerously close to the ones employed by countless cults to trap the vulnerable.
Many may be able to get past this idea and still embrace the redemptive aspects of the book, which were well handled when they came. They may like the idea of Christian super agents jumping in to battle demons with flame throwers and swords on a secret spiritual plane. I found it derivative and theologically flawed.
Has there ever been a time in your life where you wish someone could come inside your soul and fix what's broken? Take away your past regrets and make all things fresh and new? Yes, we've all been there, done that. We've made our mistakes. Sometimes that's what limits our growth today - when we focus on our regrets. Meet Reece Roth. Soul traveler. Soul healer. Teacher. Man with a tragic past. And an awesome destiny. All he has to do? Embrace it and be/do what God created him to do.
This book was well-written and engaging. Is there anything else we would expect from James Rubart? I didn't think so. The author of Rooms, Book of Days, and The Chair, he takes us on another wild ride. One thing I did miss? Romance. I kept wanting the two main characters to get together and, well, I was bummed. Another issue for me was that it seemed that God was kind of portrayed like a puppet. Say a few magic words, say you have tons of faith, and BAM God will give you exactly what you want. That left me a little wanting, I suppose.
Overall, I think it was very good and well written, and I was glad to pick up a book and not have to worry about swearing or inappropriate scenes.
*I was given a copy in exchange for my honest review, and these thoughts are my own.
This story of Soul's Gate is as wild as a mountain waterfall, as refreshing as the smell of pinon pine and it glows more brightly than a campfire.
This is a story about the soul....
It is as complex as the lives of several individual people: Dana, Brandon, Marcus, Tamera and Reece, who are the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy.
Reece, appointed to be the leader, will train the four in how to enter human souls and wage war through the power of Christ on the evil that kills, steals, and destroys.
Together, these four warriors of the Kingdom will bind up the broken-hearted, set captives free and tear down strongholds. This is spiritual warfare.
I thought this book sounded really unique when Litfuse announced that volume two, Memory's Door would be touring soon. When the awesome Litfuse Group offered *both* books to people who had missed book one, I knew I needed to read them.
Then they came.... and I looked at them and thought "I'm going to read two thick books on spiritual warfare? Yikes!" You know what? Once I started Soul's Gate I didn't want to stop...and I was glad I had the next book waiting for me. This book is written as a novel, featuring main characters whose first reaction to Reece's teaching was much like my first reaction to this book: "I'm really not all that into spiritual warfare, but I sure like Reece's Christianity." They agree that Reece, a big guy who wears his Stetson cowboy hat and knows when to be tough on you and when you need tenderness, is the real deal as far as a follower of Christ.
And it's that sense of genuineness that helps to keep them all from stealing the car and escaping when Reece begins teaching them things that stretch their narrow understanding of "reality." Like Reece explains, *Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality that we live in 99 percent of our days.*
And it all begins at a place that captured my heart as I read, a place that lives through James Rubart's descriptive writing: Well Spring Ranch. This place is beautiful, peaceful, and "The curtain is thinner there." In Dana, Marcus, and Brandon's lives, their transformation and renewal begins at Well Spring.
But it most certainly does not end there. It never will end. The journey of knowing God and living for Him in the power of Christ will not end in this life and will never end in eternity.
Once again I am blown away by the creativity and story telling of James Rubart. The book is very thought provoking and makes you reflect upon your own life in comparison while you are reading it. It's a must own/read!