Wednesday 9 August 2017

#bookreview: The Circle Series by @TedDekker

Circle Series 4-in-1Circle Series 4-in-1 by Ted Dekker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

SO. I finally got through this 1.6K-page tome that weighs a tonne. And it only took me 4 months!
In terms of actual reading time, I read Black over the course of April/May (I think, or whenever I posted the update) and then I read Red, White, and half of Green in the span of 2 days, while travelling from Malaysia to America. And then I was at a conference, and then I finished up the last half of Green over an afternoon or two, in between vacationing. So it's not really 4 months... but I probably did it an injustice by spreading out my reading over such a long time frame. Details get lost, and all that.


Honestly, if I had just bought Black: The Birth of Evil on its own, I probably wouldn't have continued to read the rest of the series. Maybe it had been overhyped a little (ha, apparently my friends are Dekker fans) but Black was seriously only an okay read.
Thomas Hunter is chased by some unknown men. He falls asleep and wakes up in an alternate reality--a forest--with no idea how he got there, where it is, or even who exactly he's supposed to be. Which world is real? And which is the dream? All he knows is that whatever he's dreaming of in his original world has already happened in this dream/future world.
The flipping back and forth between the realities got a little tiring after a while, especially when nothing much seemed to be happening. I know all that back story and confusion and vagueness was necessary, but I've been becoming an impatient reader lately so I wasn't in the best of mindsets to slog through it. I'd probably have given it a 3-star, noted a "maybe I'll continue the rest of the series" and then forgotten about it. BUT since I had the entire series, AND Dekker was keynoting at a conference I was attending, obviously I had to read the whole thing, right?


The meat of The Circle Series is really in the middle two books, Red and White. Which was why I finished them over the course of a 16-hour flight.

General Thomas of Hunter is now a renowned warrior, one of the leaders of the Forest People. They're the remnants who have remained clean, who still hold on to their belief in Elyon. Those who don't believe, the Horde, are infected with a skin disease and are followers of Teeleh and the Shataiki. In Bangkok, Thomas Hunter is still the unknown person who gains information from his dreams and is the only hope of saving the world from the Raison Strain.
It's here that Dekker's allegorical game becomes strong. It's the steadfast Christians against the rest of the world. It's the powers of darkness against the children of light. One of the major concepts of this world is that the hidden, spiritual battle in the 'past' world (i.e. our time) is now shown physically in this future world. Dekker plays with easily recognisable symbols: baptism/drowning, the Gospels/the History Books, sin/Scabs, and then, of course, the Jesus figure (I can't give you the parallel without it being a spoiler, but yes, there is one).

If the theme of Red: The Heroic Rescue was the redemption and salvation of the future earth, then White: The Great Pursuit focuses on the salvation of the past earth even whilst Elyon pursues his people in the future earth.
Past earth is still in dire straits: the antidote has yet to be found and time is running out. Oh, and nuclear weapons have been launched. Future earth seems to have it better--Elyon has revealed himself to them again and started them on a new path. Their healing is now permanent, not a temporary measure. But there's dissent brewing in the camp.
It feels a little like a commentary about theological disputes between churches, especially what it means to be in the world but not of the world. Do you continue to live in your little church/Christian bubbles? Or is it safe--or wise--to live amongst those who seek to kill you? (Well obviously in the real world, they wouldn't actually kill you, but as per the theme of the books, things the metaphysical of our world is physical/lived out in theirs.


And finally, you get to the controversial last book, Green: The Last Stand.
There's betrayal in this one, and desperate love. The believers, or albinos as they call themselves, are split. Most of the story is concentrated on the future earth--the main story arch for past earth has been completed in White, leaving only a few loose ends to be tied up (vaguely spoilerish? You decide).
The tension seems to drop a little here, but that could also be because I had to stop reading halfway and then was only able to take it up again a few days later, in a rather disjointed manner. Theme-wise, it's a story of the end-times, with the great deception, the antichrist, the mark of the beast, and the battle of Armegeddon.
BUT I will say this. Contrary to popular opinion (haha), the original ending for Green is probably the right one. It's not perfect. It's devastating, actually, tragic, but it's what really completes the circle. It what makes the beginning make sense.

It's like what I say about the end of The Hunger Games: I don't like what happened, but it is what it is. What it has to be.

(Well, the alternate ending is cool too, and you have closure, and feel happy. So there's that.)

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Here he is signing my book! :)

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