Monday, November 29, 2004

Books worth rereading

Hugh Hewitt asks for modern novels worth re-reading. I confess that my recreational fiction reading tends towards the mind-candy technothriller. These are generally single-use books, though the plots and characters tend to be repetitive enough that reading two of them might be considered the same as re-reading either. I've run across one or two books, though, that are worth re-reading. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet tells the story of the building of a cathedral at the transition from the Romanesque style with barrel vaults and thick walls to Gothic architecture, with its soaring expanses of stained glass and flying buttresses. The story captures the everyday squalor of medieval life and the power of the mounted man-at-arms over the peasant. The pervasive influence of the Roman Catholic Church is depicted without affection; the spiritually sympathetic character is a woodland "witch" who is persecuted for being a premodern feminist. This anachronism aside, it's a terrific read. I was therefore curiously disappointed when I reread Follet's Night Over Water, an espionage thriller set on a fictional flight of the grand Boeing Flying Boat at the outbreak of WWII. I recalled the book as going into a lot of techical detail about this marvelous flying machine. On the second reading, though, the story seemed to be mostly about sex. I finally got around to reading the last installment of the Left Behind series. The first couple of books were fascinating, but the quality of the writing seriously deteriorated as the series dragged on and on. You'd think that for a Christian author, describing the Parousia would be like an organist playing a Bach tocatta - a chance to pull out all the stops. But it falls flat. Frank Peretti wrote a couple of books that are worth a second look, particularly This Present Darkness. Someone really needs to make that into a movie. With today's digital effects, a competent visual storyteller could really bring to life this tale of Good versus Evil in a small town. Roy Scheider is probably too old to play the central character. Maybe Ed Harris? (Yes, I know he played a good guy opposite Max von Sydow's Devil in Needful Things.) My wife is currently re-reading the Zion Chronicles series by Brook and Bodie Thoene. And of course, C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia should be read and re-read. Aloud to your children.


Drew said...

I had the same thoughts about "Night Over Water." Though it only took me *one* reading to notice it was mostly about sex. ;)

I recall that the characters typically decided to have sex at the most ridiculous times. "Hey, I know that everything depends on us getting on that plane, and it will be taking off in a matter of minutes, let's stop and have sex in this grimy boathouse anyway."

I think this is why my dad gave up on Follett.

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