Now I'm no theologian and no expert on the genre, but I will attempt to answer one of the questions often asked about a book about vampires and werewolves that appeals to Christians: Is it Christian? Remember, this is just my opinion, but I hope it will be helpful to any who read it.
Firs of all I want to let you in on my on preferences. I don't care for horror at all--not in literature nor in movies. It just doesn't interest me, although I could go further at another time, another place. My preferences run to historical fiction, fantasy, and mystery, and I have many friends who have no interest in any of those genres. I have never read any other book about vampires or werewolves. The only vampire movies I have seen were a couple of the old black and white ones and George Hamilton's Love at First Bite, which I thought was pretty funny. Oh, and a couple of Abbott and Costello movies, also pretty funny. Werewolves? I saw Michael Landon's I Was a Teenage Werewolf, those black and white movies with Lon Chaney Jr., and Michael J. Fox's movie. That's it, and that's all I cared to know. So my knowledge of the lore and how others have portrayed the beings is extremely limited. I can't tell you how Sue's characters stack up next to any others, although I do know that she has added her own touches to the legends. And why not? From what I hear, so did Anne Rice (and I have no intention of reading her older work to find out more about it--I'm pretty sure her pre-conversion books are too erotic for Christian mores).
Initially I was drawn to buy a copy of Never Ceese after reading a couple of reviews written by Christian reviewers. And originally I bought it for a teenager I know who was deeply interested in dark things like vampires and all the Goth stuff. My hope was that this would help turn her back to more Godly things. It wasn't dark enough for her at the time (which really worried me), but she liked it and also read some other titles that I found. I'm happy to say that this girl has done quite a turn-around spiritually in the couple of years in between; I don't know if Never Ceese was a part of it or not. It may have been. Since then, I have seen messages left for Sue on Shoutlife, messages written by fans of the Twilight series who love her stories. Never Ceese came out before those books, so this wasn't any jumping on the band wagon for Sue Dent. Coincidence? I doubt it. I can't help but believe that God had a hand in the timing so that an alternative would be there for those who are drawn to such a genre, to such stories, an alternative with a Christian worldview.
How is this a Christian worldview? First of all, there are some Christian elements even in the old superstitions of the older vampire/werewolf stuff. Why is there such an aversion to crosses and all things holy? Yes, I know, there's garlic and wolf's bane, too, but the cursed ones cannot abide any mention of God or scripture and are kept at bay by crosses. This reminds me of a passage from C. S. Lewis' That Hideous Strength, where the workaholic Mark is asked to desecrate an image of Christ on the cross (I don't have the exact details; someone borrowed my book), at which point he started wondering why this was so important to them. Mark never even thought much about Jesus Christ before, just rejecting him out-of-hand, but the insistence on rejection and hateful treatment of the image seemed overkill. Why such rage at the pitiful image? It's the same thing with the atheists in America who are so enraged by any referenced to God or Christ, no matter how innocent it might be (I had many Hindu and Buddhist students who thought the teaching of the Bible were valuable, and they didn't understand this venomous attack against all things Christian, either). So it is with the aversion to all things Godly in the vampire/werewolf mythos. The very fact that crosses and even the name of God or anything to do with the Bible cause them pain leads us to the cause: these are curses from the Devil and the demons--at the very least a deep oppression from them--that can not stand anything holy. Neither do they like the daylight: creatures of darkness under the curse of the Prince of Darkness. The light will bring to light the deeds of evil.
One of the new elements Sue Dent add to her story is the possibility of redemption. I like this because it is true of the character of God: none of us are beyond His redemptive power. Her beings are still able to be saved from eternal damnation as long as they don't curse another human being, that hope that saves Penelope early on and leads her to encourage Richard and Ceese in the first book. Throughout the second book, Richard and Ceese are both able to speak of God and the Bible, even touch and read the Bible, and although there isn't any preaching scene, the truth of redemption through Jesus Christ is still there. Merideth and Penny both ask Ceese and Richard if they have made the decisions and accepted Jesus as Savior. I won't tell you the answers received, but suffice it to say that the importance of salvation through a relationship with Jesus Christ is there.
Is this a book for everyone? I doubt it. But if you know someone who is into such things as vampire lore or the Twilight phenomena, even Harry Potter, I suggest considering the books for them. They will thank you for it. Just don't try getting in their faces afterward--follow the leading of the Holy Spirit as to how much to speak of spiritual things with them. I believe it's a good gift for non-Christian fans of such genres also. While Christianity is there, it doesn't clobber anyone over the head in a way that might turn off non-Christians. It is basically a good story that comes from a Christian world viewpoint. I remember once reading a comment Sue left for a young fan at shoutlife where she told her not to worry too much about writing something with a Christian viewpoint because for a Christian that just comes naturally. I'm not sure if that's totally true, but I think it holds for those who are walking closely with the Lord. Is it for everyone? Again, I doubt it, but I have also seen some reviews from people who didn't expect to like it, others who don't care for horror, but who were won over by Richard and Ceese. Then again, I don't think these books are really horror, even if Never Ceese made the short list for a Bram Stoker Award (for those who are ignorant like me, Bram Stoker wrote the original Dracula). It's one of those in-betweeners that can appeal to a cross-over of several audiences. Think about it. If not for yourself, for someone you know.
DON'T FORGET--I'M GIVING AWAY A COPY of Forever Richard and Never Ceese. If the winner already has Never Ceese, I will choose a second name for that book. I think you can read Forever Richard and figure it out without having read the first book, but it helps to know the previous story. All comments on all of the week's blogs will count in the drawing on Tuesday, Sept. 22. So you might end up with more than one entry.
- Paperback: 350 pages
- Publisher: The Writers Cafe Press (January 5, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1934284033
- ISBN-13: 978-1934284032
You can purchase Forever Richard from the publisher, The Writers' Cafe Press (free shipping in the U.S.), Barnes and Noble , Amazon.com, or get an autographed copy from Sue here. If you want a copy of Never Ceese, you can order directly from Sue Dent herself at the Forever Richard site, but it's on the NEVER CEESE page. It's available in stores everywhere: I just don't know which ones. You might try asking for it at a local bookstore; even if they don't have it, they should be able to order it since it is distributed through Spring Arbor (main distributor for Christian book stores) and through Ingram for regular book stores.
Sue Dent's blog and website can be found at http://www.foreverrichard.com.