Monday, September 21, 2015

September 2015, Christian Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour

The First Principle, by Marissa Shrock.

After  the Great Collapse and the Second Civil War, the geographical and polical makeup of Canada, Mexico, and the United States was reformed by the Council of World Peacekeepers into the United Regions of North America. Governor Wilkins of the The Great Lakes Regions is about to be nominated for the presidency of URNA, when Vivica, her daughter finds out that she’s pregnant. Term law requires that she abort the child, which Vivica has no problem doing. But she begins to have second thoughts when she is challenged by her boyfriend and father of  the child, Ben to keep the baby. Ben is a Chrisitian, who acknowledges his sin and seeks to make things right between him and Vivica and the baby she is carrying. Keeping the baby would not be an easy task as teen girls are constantly monitored. However, Vivica does have a knack for hacking into networks and modifying information, a skill that has been financially rewarded by those whose school grades were in need of adjustment. She’s able to keep her pregancy test results negative, but she is up against the clock as time is obviously going to reveal something that no hacking skill is going to be able to amend.

Ben’s Christianity is an offense to Vivica, but her continued interest in him, and an almost unwilling acknowledgement of a commitment to protect her baby, keeps her from rejecting it outright. To make matters more complicated, Ben is part of the rebel contingent that is gaining in strength; any commitment to him is to place Vivica in opposition to her mother and the whole naturalist philosophy that dominates the political and social structure of URNA.

Marissa Shrock has written a tale that takes current-day issues and injects them into a future that is teetering between dystopia and eutopia. Vivica has to make some hard choices, any of which is going to place her in opposition to family or friend.

The story is fairly well-written, though there is one thing that I find very annoying – free indirect speech. An occasional use is acceptable, but a steady diet can become very irritating. I do not doubt that I am in the minority on this, but I think it is a cheap, colorless way to peek into someone’s mind and see what is going on. Overlooking that, I am quite pleased with Ms Shrock’s writing.

I suspect that the strong, and at times tract-like (though artful), presentation of Christianity might be a source of consternation for some, but frankly, I think it has its place in Christian literature. If the purpose of a story is to present the Christian faith in a straightforward, head-on manner, The First Principle fills the bill. I suspect that is at least part of what the author had in mind. In concert with that was the subtle and sometimes not so subtle encapsulation of the social issues of today – teen pregnancy, abortion, rationale for abortion, the anti-intellectual charge against Chrisitianity, etc. Some of it may come across as stereotypical and might detract from the story, but regardless, the issues are laid out for the reader. For those who are familiar with them already, they might find the novel one-dimensional. But for the world of teens in which not much thought has been given to the issues, or in which the party-line has been uncritically swallowed, this story is precisely what is needed, and it is in that I find its greatest value.

Not only that, but it was very entertaining. An enjoyable read that I have no problem recommending.

am very grateful to Kregal Publications which provided a copy for this review for the September, 2015 Christian Fantasy and Fiction Blog Tour.

Blog Tour Participant Links:

Julie Bihn
Thomas Clayton Booher
Beckie Burnham
April Erwin
Victor Gentile
Carol Keen
Shannon McDermott
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback 
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Jalynn Patterson
Chawna Schroeder
Jessica Thomas


  1. Thomas, I agree that it's important to keep in mind the audience. What might seem basic, and therefore old hat, to one person might be brand new to someone else.

    I enjoyed the story a lot. Many of the plot elements took me by surprise. I did guess who the traitor was, but I didn't think it was at all obvious.

    Just a note--The First Principle was published by Kregal Publications.

    Good review.


    1. Becky, maybe I shouldn't make such a blanket statement about the device. I probably should qualify that it is annoying when it is nothing more than a set of questions that supposedly pop into the characters head. To me, they seem to be artificial and emotionless. If the question (or something of the like) pops into my head because I have been able to identify with the character or the situation, then it seems to fit very well.

  2. I've never heard of "free indirect speech" before.
    Is this when Vivica is relaying her feelings and thoughts?
    For instance page 187
    I didn't care what Drake said. { My gut was telling me Canton's relationship with Martina was the key. And if Drake wasn't going to help me find Canton, I'd have to find him myself.}
    Is this what you're referencing?

    1. Meagan,

      Not exactly. I don't have the book with me or I would give you an example. There's nothing wrong for the author to let us think along with the character. As I mentioned to Becky, it is a string of questions that presumably pop into the mind of the character, and the author is iterating those for us. Rarely, if ever, does anyone think that way. Questions come to mind, of course, but not like that. It is artificial to me to lay them out stark naked like beads on a string.But maybe that is just me, I just think the same thing could be accomplished more artfully and having a more natural feel.

    2. Thomas, when you get the chance please pass on an example of this. You've piqued my interest and curiosity.

  3. I agree that there can be a place for blunt evangelism and conversion scenes in Christian novels. (It can be hard for an Evangelical to keep them out sometimes, I think.)

    I also wasn't familiar with the term "indirect speech" but I think Wikipedia cleared it up for me...I didn't notice it while reading, but I think it would have driven me up the wall if it wasn't first-person. I find I cut a lot of slack to first-person narrators as long as the style is strong and consistent...after all, people talking use indirect speech all the time. But I can definitely see where it would irritate you.

  4. "Indirect speech" is a new concept to me too. I agree with Julie on this. Consistency in a first person narration helps me to overlook some things I wouldn't in 3rd person. Thanks so much for your thoughts on this book.