A Repackaged Award Winner From Karen Hancock
Callie Hayes is living a life of fear and disillusionment when she volunteers for a psychology experiment that promises to turn her life around. As her orientation proceeds, Callie becomes frightened by the secrecy and evasion she encounters. When she demands to be released from the program, she is suddenly dropped into a terrifying alien world and into a perilous battle between good and evil. With limited resources and only a few cryptic words to guide her, Callie embarks on a life-changing journey. Will she decipher the plans the Benefactor has established for her escape, or will she succumb to the deception of the Arena?
There are disappointingly few good SF novels for the Christian market, and Hancock's intense debut is an excellent though edgy contribution to the genre. Callie Hayes is a frustrated artist with a colorless life; she earns minimum wage raising rats for laboratory use. When she volunteers for a seemingly harmless psychology experiment, she's unexpectedly thrown into a frightening and alien world. The narrative is a loose allegory of the Christian life: provided with a "field manual" (the Bible), Callie must navigate the "Arena" to return home. She hooks up with Pierce Andrews, and together with a ragtag group, they battle the mutant "Trogs," who delight in raping, torturing and devouring their victims. However, Elhanu (Christ) soon appears in disguise to help. Some CBA readers may be disturbed by the novel's many rapes and attempted rapes, as well as its occasional stomach-turning descriptions (e.g., human bones with the marrow sucked out). Hancock's characters struggle believably with sexual feelings and passion, something that's often handled poorly or ignored in CBA fiction. Characters are multidimensional, although one borders on caricature (SF 's typical buxom, long-legged, weapon-brandishing blonde), and the sporadic Scripture verses seem out of place. To her credit, Hancock admirably dashes most of the reader's preconceptions about the plot as the story progresses through a series of twists, turns and well-paced developments. If this book is any indication, the future should be bright for this promising novelist.