Monday, May 21, 2012

Monday Review: Beckon by Tom Pawlik

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher, Tyndale House. Bonus points to them for mailing a copy outside the US, but that won't affect my review.

Beckon is named after a barely noticeable Wyoming town, lurking somewhere on the outskirts of the Twilight Zone, where things are not quite as they seem. Which is odd in itself, because it's not until about a third of the way into the book that we actually arrive there.

The first part of the story is divided, somewhat unequally, into three parts, each introducing one of the main characters and their reasons for visiting Beckon. George Wilcox is looking for a cure for his wife's Alzheimer's; Elina Gutierrez is a disgraced cop on a personal mission to find her missing cousin; and our hero, Jack Kendrick, is on a quest to find out what happened to his father, guided by the wise and enigmatic Old Ben (wait, what?).

I found the story a bit of a slow burner; I wanted to discover what was going down in Beckon, not go potholing with Jack and Ben. However, when Jack does eventually arrive, and we flashback to see how Elina and George came to be there, the story of Beckon is slowly fleshed out and the stage is set for the final showdown.

I thought the way the three stories were split was a bit odd to start with, but it works well enough to make the ending satisfying, and helps maintain that air of mystery around the town of Beckon while you're on the way.

For all the story started slowly, once we were in those caves, I was absolutely in the caves. The writing totally took me in, I could picture every scene (although, it may have helped that the cave scenes were pretty much darkness throughout...) and absolutely believed it - except once.

*Spoiler approaching!*

Giant alien zombie cave spiders I could believe. Weird, barely human creatures covered in strange tattoos that seem to co-exist with the spiders, I could believe. But when we are given a physical demonstration of how quickly the people of Beckon are able to heal themselves, that was just a little less believable than the rest, and took me out of the story for a moment.

*End of spoiler*
I tend to find stories like Beckon - supernatural suspense novels with a Christian motif - often come across a bit Stephen King-lite, and the same could be said here, but in this instance it's not entirely a bad thing. King would have had a lot more gore and swearing, certainly; there are gory moments in Beckon, but not too many or too graphic - I wouldn't be surprised if the author had to work very hard to get the right balance. And Beckon clearly demonstrates that novels like this do not need an f-bomb every three pages, or indeed at all.

All in all, Beckon is a well-written story with plenty of action and suspense, a dash of humour, an interesting evil and a subtle but present hopeful note as befits a book aimed at a Christian audience.

Your tour, as ever, continues this way:
Noah Arsenault Julie Bihn Thomas Clayton Booher Thomas Fletcher Booher Beckie Burnham Brenda Castro Theresa Dunlap Nikole Hahn Ryan Heart Bruce Hennigan Janeen Ippolito Becky Jesse Jason Joyner Carol Keen Leighton Rebekah Loper Katie McCurdy Shannon McDermott Karen McSpadden Rebecca LuElla Miller Nissa Joan Nienhuis Faye Oygard Crista Richey Kathleen Smith Jessica Thomas Steve Trower Fred Warren Shane Werlinger


Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

Ah, Steve, I do have to say, I like it when you actually get a chance to read the books we tour.

I believed the bit you included in the spoiler because I thought it was foreshadowed well. I'm thinking of the "special, thin bulletproof vest."

Stephen King lite. Very interesting assessment.


UKSteve said...

Thanks Becky, the tour is more interesting when I've read the book too!

As for what I didn't believe (spoiler alert!) I didn't have a problem with the healing itself, but for me the near-instantaneous and perfect healing belonged in a superhero story, and spoilt the sense of realism that I got from the story as a whole.

Still, one duff sentence in 400 pages is a track record to be envied :)

Nissa Annakindt said...

It's a pity they couldn't have two of the fast-healing people in a major combat with each other--- like Mina the lady vampire and Dorian Grey in the movie League of Extraordinary Gentleman.

PS, I hate hate hate the word verification, I can't read the letters so I get it wrong a lot. I turned it OFF on my blog, disallowed anonymous comments, and did not get any spam comments. Just sayin'.