CSFF Blog Tour: Storm

At the end of the world, you should expect to have some problems. Tyranny, intrigue, drought, a biological superweapon, Big Brother watching you – it all gathers into a perfect storm.

In Storm, Logan Langly continues his fight against DOME, his search for answers. He sees more of the big picture than nearly everyone who walks through the streets of the Global Union. But he doesn’t see nearly enough.

Storm focuses less on Logan and Erin than the earlier books, though Logan retains his place as the protagonist of the series. Evan Angler adds a few new characters, expands on some old ones. We get our first real look at Lamson and Cylis; Tyler and Eddie – who had previously impressed me only as a couple of unusually stupid boys – acquire some depth. Lily gets more pages than ever, and becomes more confusing than ever; Dr. Rhyne is both hilarious and stereotype-breaking.

The novel is written in an on-the-street style, with brief paragraphs, many sentence fragments, and a pervasive casualness. There is art in expressions sprinkled throughout the book – such as describing a town as “still, suspended in the thick, stifling air”. You read that, and it sounds like something you’ve felt once. The narrative of Storm, though not strongly detailed, is always flavorful.

It’s with considerable skill that Angler blends the genres of dystopian and End Times fiction. One can, reading the Swipe series, see Revelation playing out, but most of the judgments seem – if I may borrow the phrase – “man-made catastrophes”. The prophecies of Revelation are fulfilled, but not in any obvious way.

And to me, that feels right. Jesus gave us signs of His return, and told us that we would know by them when it was near. But He also said that we should always watch and be ready, because He will come, like a thief in the night, at an hour when we do not expect Him. He promised to surprise us.

What I like about the Swipe series is that it shows that the End Times are likely to be so unexpected that we could, even as Christians, be in them without realizing it. It shows how there may be sighs that those who are awake and wise can read – and still not know when Jesus is coming, only that it seems to be very soon.

Storm is the third book of the Swipe series, and the best yet – the most well-written, the most unexpected and yet the most logical in its story, with the most intriguing ending. It could change the way you think about End Times fiction; it could change the way you think about the End Times.

Storm is written by Evan Angler, who has a website despite living on the run from DOME.

Evan Angler briefly appears as a character in Storm, getting his story from his characters. According to Becky Miller, “Evan Angler” is a pen name. She said that she had “yet to locate any information about the person behind the pen name.

So I spent a few minutes trying, and now I have to say: Me, too. The author’s bios of Evan Angler – in the books and on the Internet – are blarney; entertaining blarney, but not a fact in them. On his Twitter account, in interviews he keeps up the pretense of living in the dystopia of the Global Union, and his picture is of somebody wearing a hoodie with his head bowed, the setting sun over his shoulder, so you can’t really see the face …

On reflection, I’m not sure that Evan Angler even exists. But you should go to his site anyway. Because he has the best book trailers I’ve ever seen.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: Sneak

When you are a refugee from an evil government and its secret police, when your ambition is to pull a prison break at a fortress of a prison, when you are variously counted a criminal, a traitor, an outcast, and a target – what do you do? Well, for starters, you sneak.

Sneak is the second installment of the story Evan Angler began in Swipe. Logan, now among the Dust, is on a mission to save his sister; he has a city to go to, a name to look for – Acheron, the ultimate bane of the Markless. On the road they find stories of Acheron. Whether or not they’ve found truth – well, that they won’t know until they can get to Acheron and see for themselves.

Sneak explores deeper the world rising from the devastation of global warming and Total War. That world grows more elaborately dystopian, and in this second book, the series becomes definitely Christian and unmistakably End Times. I had hoped the books were not going in that direction, because it’s not the sort of thing that naturally appeals to me. But if you’re going to do it, this is the way to.

Knowing Revelation, one can see various fulfillments in Swipe and Sneak. Yet they come in unexpected ways, flavored and influenced by the particular world of the novels. And they come unheralded, and even gradually – far more interesting, and even more believable, than the seven years of cataclysm found in other End Times works.

The pace of Sneak is brisk enough to keep away boredom, and slow enough that readers are not left confused. Certain events were skimmed past with hardly a glance, but they were peripheral to the actual experiences of the characters, and maybe that is the nature of a middle-grade book. On the same front, I found the main character too rash – but again, maybe that is the nature of thirteen-year-old boys who have abruptly been torn from all that was stable in their lives.

What I appreciated most about this book was the inventiveness with which the author handled his world and End Times prophecies. He had a flair with his characters, too, and managed to support a large cast and make most of them distinctive. Sneak leaves more going than Swipe did, while also leaving less of an idea of where the characters will turn next. So here’s to the next book, and the author’s skill that keeps readers coming back.

Sneak is the second book in the Swipe series. Yes, we are getting there: to Storm, the one under the spotlight.

CSFF Blog Tour: Swipe

Logan Langly is afraid. He’s afraid of the dark, of crowds, of empty spaces behind him. He’s afraid of footsteps and shadows in the street; he’s afraid of eyes he’s never seen, but always feels.

Most of all, he’s afraid of getting the Mark. The Mark is the passport to adulthood, granting the right to buy, to have a job, to go to a doctor. No civilized life is possible without it. But Logan’s afraid.

Swipe, by Evan Angler, is a dystopian novel, and it could go as post-apocalyptic, too. The earth has been devastated by war and global warming, but in Logan’s time it’s getting back on its feet. Beneath its feet are the Dust – the Markless, outcasts for whom no one cares.

Swipe is also middle-grade fiction. This is why the age of receiving the Mark is thirteen. I thought that Evan Angler handled his cast of twelve- and thirteen-year-olds well. There were lines of dialogue I thought beyond such (I’ll say it) children, and it is always hard for me to seriously care for romance between (I’ll say it again) children. It would have been better, I thought, if the age of receiving the Mark had been put two or three years older.

Yet the negative effect was minimal. It did work. I was impressed, moreover, by the mature complexity of the story. There are themes of choices made and paid for, of friends who become enemies and enemies who can be friends. Angler brings out a diversity of motivations in his characters.

Any Christian reading this book will quickly pick out the specters of Revelation: the Mark, the rising world-empire. It is not clear, however, if Swipe is the beginning of an End Times series, or simply drawing inspiration from the Bible. I prefer the latter.

Religion, as such, has a small place in Swipe; I guess it will have a large place in the series. Angler inserts, with admirable subtlety, clues that his characters don’t understand but that his readers do. Some who show doubts about the new regime wear a “charm” – the Cross, we can easily guess. A forsaken building we recognize, by the description of a spire and stained glass windows, as a church is mistaken by the children for a warehouse on account of the crates of books they find in it.

A number of the characters use the names of two world leaders in quasi-religious phrases: “For Cylis’s sake”; “In Lamson’s name”. And we see another specter: the Anti-Christ.

I enjoyed Swipe; the characters were finely and realistically drawn, the story made unexpected turns, the world was grimly interesting. The book is the first in a series; the story goes on, and I plan to be there.

Note: Swipe is the first book of the Swipe series; the third book, Storm, is the subject of this month’s CSFF blog tour.

I wrote this review before I read any of the later books. These are my first insights and reactions to the series; this is Swipe taken in context only of itself. I am planning to make my way through the series, ending in Storm later this week. To see what this tour is about in the meantime, visit my fellow tourers:

Julie Bihn
Beckie Burnham

Keanan Brand
Pauline Creeden
Emma or Audrey Engel
Sarah Faulkner
Victor Gentile
Ryan Heart
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Chawna Schroeder

Jacque Stengl
Jojo Sutis
Jessica Thomas
Steve Trower
Phyllis Wheeler
Rachel Wyant

Great Innovations

Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities.” Which is pretty much what happened with the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation had created a remarkably weak Continental Congress, lacking the power to carry through even what few decisions it had the authority to make. It could create an army but not fund it, borrow money but not repay it, make treaties but not fulfill them.

So the Founders – frustrated by the paralyzing weakness and afraid of its consequences – finally brought about the Constitution.

It began with a trade convention in Annapolis, where twelve delegates from five states met for three days. They found that “the power of regulating trade is of such comprehensive extent, and will enter so far into the general System of the federal government, that to give it efficacy, and to obviate questions and doubts concerning its precise nature and limits, may require a correspondent adjustment of other parts of the Federal System.”

This is a long way around to the point that, in order to amend the defects in commerce, they first needed to amend the defects in the scheme of government. They recommended a convention in Philadelphia the following May, to “render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.”

The Congress took the suggestion and issued a call for the Philadelphia convention. Fifty-five delegates from twelve states* attended. Not only did they create a new Constitution for the country, they even created the terms by which it was to be accepted or rejected.

If you care to remember such details, the Continental Congress was the governing body of the American union. But the convention essentially cut them out. They put the Constitution before the states for ratification, with the regulation that when nine states had ratified, the new government would take effect.

To appreciate the boldness of this, you have to understand that the Articles of Confederation could be revised only by the approval of the Congress and the unanimous consent of all the state legislatures. You also have to remember that the Philadelphia convention met by the authority of the Continental Congress, and then arranged to supplant the Congress without ever getting their leave.

In a final stroke of audacity, the convention stated that – at such time as nine states ratified the Constitution – the Congress should fix the date for the elections of the new Congress and the takeover** of the new government. The Continental Congress was requested to manage its dissolution.***

The battle for ratification was closely and even bitterly fought. Massachusetts ratified by 187-168****, New York by 30-27. New Hampshire by 57-47, Virginia by 89-79, Rhode Island by 34-32 – all slender majorities, especially for so great an innovation.

* Rhode Island sent no delegation. The convention didn’t act like it mattered.

** They called it “commencing Proceedings”. To be an eighteenth-century legislator!

*** But not agree to it.

**** Of all the votes listed here, this was the Federalists’ widest margin of victory – and even here, ten votes would have changed it to defeat. The rest of the tallies may be found here.

Review: Epic

One of the oldest dreams of humanity is that there is another world within ours – maybe smaller in size, but larger in most other things. And while we dream of that grand world, thrilling with fear and with wonder, we sometimes dream of finding our way in. To judge by all the stories, it’s easier to enter by accident than by earnest seeking.

Epic – released into theaters just last month – is the old dream made new once more. Mary Katherine is a modern girl, from her cell phone to her broken home to her moniker “MK”. But she’s about to enter a world they could have told a story about a thousand years ago.

With a few additions. The snail and the slug – the comic relief of the movie – are thoroughly modern touches. Epic also makes a twenty-first century take-off of the “wise man” trope.

And these are only within the fairy-tale world. From without, the movie goes so far as to add sci-fi elaborations to its fantasy milieu – talk of the “ecosystem”, of another dimension. It employs a similar idea to what Terry Pratchett said of his gnomes in Truckers: They live faster.

For a movie, Epic is unusually complex. There are five story threads weaving together, at least four major characters whose stories are being told. In most of these characters there is some hint of cliche – the charming, high-spirited rebel, the obsessed scientist, the stoic warrior. Yet the movie deepens them with a sense of history and, with it, a sense of sadness.

The filmmakers handle their large number of characters and subplots expertly. They keep the pace up and integrate all into a cohesive whole. Nothing is irrelevant, nothing is wasted. Certain elements could, in a less full work, have been expanded upon greatly. I know that not everything was told, but I believe enough was.

Epic is a clean movie – surprising for any movie released in 2013, and especially for a DreamWorks movie. The story gives the action and the adventure you would expect, with the requisite dose of humor. More unusually, it draws its viewers into an elemental struggle between good and evil and sounds a light but pervasive note of sadness. Something, it seems, has happened to everyone.

Epic‘s crowning artistic achievement is the world it creates, realized with beautiful animation and with a sense of the grandeur, the peril, and the humor possible in such a world. Epic is an entertaining ride, and a satisfying tale, as it plunges into our old dream, the world within ours.