Circle Trilogy

by Ted Dekker

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews

A Fantastic and Fresh Take on Good vs Evil *****

This book reads like CS Lewis meets Jason Bourne. For the first few chapters, you aren't sure what's going on - every time the main character goes to sleep, he wakes up in another world and vice-versa. Both worlds are real. And both worlds have loads of trouble for Thomas Hunter.

Both world's stories are compelling and, while not totally dependent on each other, definitely have implications in the other world. Dekker does a masterful job of creating 2 completely unique realities that are completely believable. And since the story is told from Thomas' perspective (for the most part), you really get to go on a wild ride.

Once I got about 1/2 way into "Black" - I was hooked. I think I read the rest of the book (all three books are now in one volume) in a few days. I couldn't put it down.

I loved the beautiful imagery of God's love and the use of water to symbolize so many things. It's a wonderful, unique and compelling book that I strongly recommend! 

-Patricia A. Theriault  "Trish"



Faulty plot plus bad theology equals mediocre tale **

The Circle Trilogy tells the story of Thomas Hunter, a man who enters an alternate reality when he dreams. When he falls asleep in the other world, he awakens back in ours. Both worlds are in danger; in our world a madman releases a deadly virus called the Raison Strain (only he has the antidote), and the world in Hunter's dreams is threatened by the Shataiki, a bizarre race of evil bat-like creatures.

While the ingredients of a good story are here, Dekker doesn't assemble them into a compelling yarn. He keeps the action flowing briskly, and his style is descriptive without being a distraction, but the fantasy world of Hunter's dreams is flat and dull compared with Middle Earth, Narnia, or EarthSea. Only two cultures live there, and they both speak the same language. The land itself is just generic forest and desert, with few interesting creatures or plants that you can't find in our world. It never feels like a real place.

Plot inconsistencies and weaknesses also undermine the story. For example, the "other world" (which is never named) is portrayed as a future Earth (our world is referred to as "Ancient Earth"), but as the trilogy begins it seems to be in a pre-Fall state like the Garden of Eden. The part of the story that takes place in our world has some irritating holes, too. The entire conflict hinges on Thomas accidentally revealing to the bad guys how they can mutate the Raison vaccine to create a deadly airborne virus. He also tells them how to make the antidote. So why doesn't Tom simply tell the good guys how to make the antidote, too? HE FORGETS! Building an entire plot around such a contrived scenario is just lazy writing.

In fact, Dekker can't make up his mind whether Thomas Hunter is a clueless dolt or a super genius. Although Tom can't remember that splicing the fifth and ninety-third genes in the Raison Strain makes an antidote to the virus, he later memorizes the recipe for gunpowder (including how to find, mine, and process the necessary ingredients), so he can make a batch big enough to blow up a cliff -- all in one night, with no previous experience! Later in the story, Thomas gains possession of an ancient artifact that gives him the power to have any wish fulfilled. Does he use it to incapacitate the bad guys or to discover the antidote to the Raison Strain? No, for some reason those options don't occur to him. My vote: clueless dolt.

To make matters worse, plot elements come and go at the author's whim. For example, Dekker hints at a connection between a villain in the other world and one in ours (he describes both as walking with a leg-dragging limp). I kept waiting for some kind of payoff or revelation, but nothing ever comes of it. It's as if the author simply forgot what he had written earlier. When one of the ancient artifacts mentioned above - almost unlimited power - falls into the hands of the bad guys, does Thomas mount a desperate and daring attempt to retrieve it? Do the bad guys gloat over the perfect weapon and try to use it for evil? Nope. Nothing happens. Literally, NOTHING happens. Dekker even seems to lose interest in the villains; they either disappear from the tale with no explanation or are quickly dispatched without any final battle or confrontation.

On a deeper level, the Circle Trilogy is an allegory retelling the story of God's redeeming love for sinful people, but despite some powerfully-written passages, the book fails on the spiritual front, too. I found Dekker's analogies fairly creative, and I applaud him for trying to write a fantasy that is distinctly Christian, but his version of salvation focuses solely on God's love with no sorrow or repentance for sin. In fact, Thomas comes to know, love, and worship Elyon in the "other" world, but this never seems to translate into a real-world faith in Christ. Portraying God's love without His holiness is unbalanced at best and idolatry at worst. Yes, God's love is deep and amazing, but painting Him as "desperate" to win the love of sinners is borderline heresy. Since God has absolute foreknowledge of the future, He isn't desperate about anything. Sure, it's fine for Dekker to remind us that God is an emotional Being, but His emotions do not control Him the way the author presents.

Initially, the cool premise of the Circle Trilogy pulled me in, but alas, the tale unraveled as it went. Lacking a satisfying climax, and filled with plot holes and poor theology, the Circle Trilogy rates a meager two stars.

-G.T. Howell  "neogalahad"


Up ]

[Return to CHRISTIAN FICTION home page]