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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Field of Blood by Eric Wilson

If you've been coming to this blog for any amount of time, you know a few things to be true. I am a Christian. I am a horror writer. Taking that oxymoron into consideration, understand as a human, I seek out those with similar characteristics (and they're far and few between.)

More truths of this blog: you won't get candy-coated idealism or opinions from me. You won't see white-picket-fence Christianity. And you won't see many formal Christian fiction book reviews.

I've purposely taken my time with this review and read this book with an ultra-keen-discerning eye because I feel like this book is the beginning of a paradigm shift in Christian publishing. People have said that Peretti and Dekker are the pioneers, while that might be true, I think it's apropos to suggest Eric Wilson has gone a step further because this story is layered and textured, something I haven't seen in the other books trying to fit in this genre in the CBA.

Yes, I highlight Christian fiction on this blog--because I believe it's important. But I don't often read the books because they're usually on the stereotypical, predictable side with a measure of immature writing thrown in. That recipe might be well received by some, but one with discerning taste buds files only the recipes worth keeping. Those who know how to cook also have a memory file of basic recipes stored away. Tried and true, used over and over so that a written version is no longer needed.

Chefs can take these "memory recipes" add ingredients and manipulate cooking techniques to get new results on old favorites.

This is what we witness in Field of Blood. Eric Wilson as chef. His tried and true recipe--a vampire story. The brilliance comes in his obvious comfort in the kitchen and knowledge of ingredients. It's like watching Emeril's flare (BAM!) mixed with Alton Brown's information on Good Eats and the creativity and humor of Duff on Ace of Cakes. If you're not a Food Network addict, that means Wilson's story is full of flavor, spice, originality and kick. You taste, learn, and experience first hand a gourmet meal developed by a well-trained professional.

Wilson starts with some well known, easy to access ingredients. Vampires. Judas Iscariot's betrayal and suicide at Akeldama--the Field of Blood, the Potter's field. The field bought by Judas Iscariot with the money he earned betraying Jesus.

Wilson does not retell this story, which is a beautiful thing, and he gives credit to the reader by using the story as a springboard for this unique vampire story. Immature chefs might have the inclination to teach me where ground beef comes from and how it is processed instead of just telling me to use a pound of ground beef. I'm interested in how the ground beef will be cooked for this recipe, not where it came from.

Almost all of the characters are likable (or contemptible) or at least understandable. There are a lot of them, and typically I wouldn't prefer that. I usually like to see a small cast and an intimate point of view. Field of Blood has many characters, but to his credit, Wilson did an excellent job with names and characterization, enough so that I didn't get lost.

Chef's also choose which herbs they use. A lot of CBA fiction contains dried stuff from Dollar General (sorry, but it's true.) Wilson seems to choose home-grown, or fresh herbs which adds a quality to this story unlike other CBA fiction. His humor shines through. My favorite is the construction workers joking about the longest bone in the body. So totally on target for the profession and gender, yet also, unbelievably well done for a CBA book. Everything you think you understand about taboos in CBA fiction must be questioned after reading this book.

I loved the quotes from Bram Stoker's Dracula and the book of Jude. I loved the importance of the theme of blood, the symbolism of blood as it pertains to life and death, to Christianity, to the undead, the doubly dead, the doubly alive, the eternal and immortal. The symbolism of thorns, pain, forgiveness, and bitterness. The symbolism of chess and the Immortal Game, the sacrifice and how it ties to Gina's name. So well thought out and brilliant. (In general, all of the themes and symbolisms, too many and too rich in content for me to accurately describe.)

As an Anne Rice fan, there's a certain sexy feel she brings to her stories. Field of Blood has that at times and after reading the seductive scenes I had to go back and re-read them because I couldn't believe Wilson pulled them off that well.

I'm such an Easter Egg whore. I loved finding them and I adore authors who hide them for me!

Since you know me, you know there were things I didn't like as well (and they were minor things.)
  • Some of the dialogue between Gina and Cal seems inappropriately sarcastic. I understand Gina's character, but as I placed myself in her shoes, there were times when I just couldn't believe she was saying what she was.
  • The prologue. While it is helpful to the story, it could have been integrated (as the rest of the book proves Wilson's capability of a time braid.)
  • The "Journal entries" of the unknown person. I liked the idea of the character being able to taste the droplets of blood to get history and memories, which indicates a possible Collector, but I feel the story could have been told without the journal entries. What I'm banking on is a payoff in one of the next two books.
  • Some of the character's physical attributes were over-described.
  • The "roll call" of Collectors was totally unnecessary.
  • Some words were overused. (Gangrene, for one) And since we're on the subject... I've been working on my story that includes the line, "Regret and guilt were the gangrene of her soul." I was a little shocked to see Wilson's line, "Don't you see, Gina, how you're letting the gangrene eat at your soul?" Kudos dude. You got it published first...guess it's your's now and that has put an end to my quandary of whether to keep that line or strike it in my story.
  • (Spoiler alert) I think every storyline had a payoff except one. And I believe there was only one sentence about Gina being a twin. I'm guessing that the unknown journalist is her twin and he's in Seattle, which is why Nikki protested Gina's potential move there with Jed. And that may be what's coming for me in Haunt of Jackals. Eric? Are you at liberty to discuss such things? ;)

I thought other Christian publishers were ahead of the game, but it turns out, Thomas Nelson seems to have it's finger on the pulse of the fiction I'm looking for.

Eric Wilson's website.
Jerusalem's Undead website.
Gina Lazarescu's Facebook page.

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Anonymous said...

What the heck! I just read your review, after having responded to the email. OH MY GOSH! That has got to be one of the best I've ever received, not just because of your appreciate for the book but for the way you expressed it. (My wife is going to LOVE that you compared me to Emeril. lol)

Sorry I stole "gangrene" from you. And yes, there will be a payoff to the journals and the Seattle storyline. Hee-hee. Hint: it's another time-braid (not to mention a genuine FBI mystery!).

It's nice to know the risks of this book worked for you. Thank you for taking the time to write the review. I think I'll frame it and read over it every time I'm floundering in my own un-awesomeness.

Seriously. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I was so excited that I even tossed in big boo-boo ("your appreciate").

Now you know why I need editors.

Anonymous said...

Oh, one more thing...I did include the roll call because most readers aren't as quick on the draw as you seasoned veteran. I had a number complain about trying to keep the vampire characters straight, so this allowed me to give them a reference. It also serves to update you in Haunt of Jackals as to what's happened with them so far.

Hey, did you read the ARC instead of the store version? I should mention that the dagger's history is partially explained in the new one, and that the last journal is changed to show that it was Gina's blood being accessed in the final section. There's also another easter egg in the prologue from Aramis Black. *wink*

Anonymous said...

Kudos to both of you for holding yourselves, your work and the genre to a higher degree!

Anonymous said...

but will it sell to a conservative, evangelical reader that (I believe) makes up the majority of the CBA audience??

~michelle pendergrass said...

Eric--since we've been talking in email, I forgot to come here to thank you for your comments (and little hints!)

Michele--Thank you. :) That means a lot.

Monica-- I DO think it will sell, the story is so rich. There is absolutely no reason it wouldn't. It is not heretical, there isn't anything I could find that someone could complain about (though I'm sure that one person will find something.) It is a superb example of excellence in Christian fiction.

Anonymous said...

So this book is next on my list. I'll let you know what I think when I'm done!