Friday, January 9, 2009

SEABIRD Soars to Great Heights (CFRB Blog Tour)

It's finally my turn to write something about the January book celèbre for CFRB. You can go to some of the other blogs listed below to get the synopsis, but since I'm posting near the end of the week, I think I'll go into more of my personal thoughts. That makes this a very subjective review, I guess, but sometimes I think that's okay.

I first "met" Sherry through the Lost Genre Guild, so I knew her before I read the book. Her vitality, exuberance, and wit came through in her posts with the group, so before long I wanted to read the novel she attached to her signature.

If you have read even a couple of my blogs, you know I am partial to fantasies, particularly any with a Christian world view. Tolkien is on the top pedestal with C. S. Lewis very close by. In my own mind, I doubt if any other book will every replace either one of them, so if I compare another book to their work, it just means that tale is in the same vein or has some similarities. These are the standards. Having said that, I have to say that Seabird contains those elements that a good fantasy story--one that follows in the traditions set by Tolkien and Lewis--contains.

The elements that I speak of go far beyond the ones that my little brain will conjure up right now, of course.

The fight between good and evil is essential for this type of fantasy. Seabird has that conflict in abundance. Cara is pulled into the world of Narenta because of a need for the Good. Speaking of that pull, the Call is often an important part of a fantasy written from a Christian worldview. And that call goes out to someone that no one suspects is destined to do great things. Cara is not an obvious choice for a champion any more than David the shepherd. Yet the forces of Good in Narenta are all certain that she was called to help them in their hour of need.

As with Narnia and Middle Earth, there are various "people" besides the humans. Cara meets several "people" groups who are more or less on the side of Good, the most important being the
people of Alphesis, Seabirds who are the scholars and wisest of all Narentans. Yes, talking birds. This may sound like a rip off from Narnia, but it really isn't. On the Evil side,there are some really nasty werewrights ( I think it's a kind of reptilian thing if I understand correctly) and the daemagos--these are like evil sorcerers who can do incredibly ugly stuff, powered by supernatural evil.

Then there is the quest and the journey. Cara is the Outworlder called to help Narenta, but many others are involved along the way. There is a part in this quest that only Cara can play, but without the help of many who are committed to Alphesis, she would never live to complete the task. Unfortunately, some of her noble friends don't.

Beyond the actual story, I think I am drawn by the values that it upholds. That's another element in fantasies of this ilk, perhaps the most important for some of us. There is a higher power that the Good people of the land follow. Many people have compromised their values, giving in to temptations, selfishness, and the influences of the Evil forces. Those who remain true, however, will even die for their cause. Values like love, honesty, loyalty, faith, kindness, mercy, courage are all upheld. Cara herself doesn't possess most of them, but she learns from her experiences and from her comrades. Hopefully, readers will also learn and take note.

I thoroughly enjoyed Seabird, and I believe those who enjoy fantasies, young adult or old, will also enjoy it. There are certainly some creepy parts and battle scenes, but it isn't really gory. It isn't so much a happily-ever-after book, yet the ending should satisfy the reader. There is, however, room for sequels to finish the tale even though one segment does actually end with this novel.

I will be giving away a copy of Seabird next Monday (Jan. 11). To get in this drawing, leave a comment on one of my Seabird posts or one of those posted by other CFRB bloggers. Please leave an email address in your comment, though, so that I can reach you.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.


Xanthorpe said...

Well said :-)

In the animated feature Shrek, the ogre yells at the donkey, "Ogres have layers!"

I think Seabird has layers as well. As much time as I have spent in Narenta, I think that, like Middle Earth, Narnia and other 'worlds' that have thrilled and enchanted me, I shall return one day soon.

I know there are sequels coming but I shall read Seabird at least once more before admiring the finished work that will be Earthbow.

To me, that is the mark of a great story - can I read it again and still be enchanted? With Seabird tha answer is an emphatic YES!


cathikin said...

I agree with you on that. And these are the books I want to own so I can visit them when the urge hits. I have re-read Lord of the Rings trilogy more times than I remember (more additions that I remember). Many of Lewis' books as well not just the Narnia tales (The Space Trilogy for example) Some recent discoveries have stretched my favorites to many more than I would have expected. How delightful to 'chance' upon such lovely tomes.

UtM, SherryT said...

Oh, dear people! I'm happiest with Seabird when I'm thinking aobut it rther than reading it. When I read it, I have the urge to pick up a pen and start marking things. When I'm just thinking about the story, I float from high point to high point and just smile.

As for Tolkien's LotR, Lewis's two series, and the Chas Wms novels -- I cannot imagine not owning them and having them ready to hand for reading. I wish I had as much time as I used to, to indulge. But then, don't we all.

Which reminds me, Cath. Did you see today where Grace says she has all of 5-6 shelves of books. I had a strong urge to respond, "Amateur!" 'Course that's not polite, plus it does rather point to my own need for worldly possessions.

Someone once asked Lewis if he thought there would be books in Heaven. He responded, "Only those you have given or lent."

Xanthorpe said...

It's a bird, no - it's a - it's Ignorant Boy!

Lewis has a Space trilogy?!?

I have GOT to read that.

Star Wars is wonderful; and I've read a lot of the fill-in novels written by Foster et al. But running a close second to that is Margaret Weis' Star of the Guardians series. The co-author of the Dragonlance Chronicles must have a warm place in her own heart for a great space opera.

I cannot recommend highly enough this mixture of science and humanity. And to top it off, the antagonist - think Darth Vader without the armor - doubles as a monk when the pull between selfish ambition, love, anger, pride and God become to strong.

It has been some time since I read them but from my memories (think Sherry's post concerning thinking about rather than reading a story) they will astound you.

Book 1: The Lost King
Book 2: King's Test
Book 3: King's Sacrifice

These are the original three in the series; there is at least one more I believe, as well as another spin-off series about a cyborg mercenary that figures in the first trilogy (Mag Force 7). The last is a little heavy on the sci fi and battle but the original Star of the Guardians series is truly a gem.

Disclaimer: I read these books before becoming a Christian. I don't recall any strong language or really nasty stuff but it has been easily 15 years since I read them. And we all know what can happen in the mists of time. That said, from an author's standpoint, the amazing character development and world building that Weis does is worthy of a look alone


UtM, SherryT said...

Harry, an old library friend of mine, is a big M Weis fan. I wish I had time to follow up on your recommendation.

But since I know you have som much time to follow up on my recommendation -- grin -- C. S. Lewis's Space Trilogy consists of:

Out of the Silent Planet -- the most golden age space opera of the three, set first on Earth, then after the protagonist has been whisked away, on a space ship and finally on Mars or "Malacandra".

Perelandra (aka Venus). The intro is told from Lewis's point of view -- as if he personally knows the protagonist. It involves a great bit of spiritual warfare as Lewis tries to get to Ransom's house, with a whole unseen host of evil spirits out to prevent him.

After that, we follow Ransom as he goes to a newly-populated & utterly-memorable Venus, where he meets Venus's "Eve" before the fall. The flora and fauna are breath-taking!

Perelandra explores the idea of what would have happened if Eve had resisted the serpent. Would he have kept on tempting her? If so, how would that be resolved?
Perelandra is my favorite, partially because of a kind of half-paean, half-vision of the Great Dance of creation and praise to God (Maleldil) very near to the end.

That Hideous Strength -- Set exclusively on Thulcandra -- that's us or the "silent planet". This was futuristic SF in Lewis's day. Now, in some measure, we can look all around us and see it in action.

THS manages to combine futuristic SF, the Arthurian "Matter of Britain", bits of "1984", and Greek/Roman mythology.
It's the only Lewis book that I had to try repeatedly to start reason. An early scene freaked me out as much as it did one of the protagonists.

After you've read them go look for a small commentary on Tolkien & Lewis, titled, "Lord of the Elves and Eldils".

UtM, SherryT said...

RE THS, I meant, "to start READING".

"Reason" didn't help me when I kept putting the book down, rather than continuing. ;-P