Ted Dekker. The Circle Trilogy: Featuring Complete Texts of Black, Red, and White. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004. See here to buy the book.
Ted Dekker is a Christian fiction author. As with Frank Peretti (with whom Dekker cowrote a book), my impression is that Dekker is a Christian Stephen King, in that he writes fantasy and horror books that are from an evangelical Christian perspective. But Dekker also writes books about suspense and international intrigue, so perhaps he can also be called a Christian Tom Clancy. I came across Ted Dekker’s name over a year ago, and what I read about his Paradise trilogy intrigued me. The thing is, in order to understand the Paradise trilogy, I would have to read the Circle trilogy, so I bought the three volumes of the Circle trilogy in a single volume for a cheap price off Amazon. I decided to read this trilogy during my move.
I will summarize the plot, and, just to let you know, there will be spoilers in my summary. The main character of the trilogy is Thomas Hunter, a man in his 20s. Thomas is an aspiring writer who has not achieved any success. He owes some loan sharks a lot of money. His father was a military chaplain, but his father leaving the family turned Thomas and his sister Kara off to religion.
Thomas is hit on the head by some thugs, and he wakes up in another world. This other world is the future. What will ordinarily happen is that, when Thomas is asleep in one world, he will be awake in the other. As in the Chronicles of Narnia, time can pass differently in both worlds, meaning that Thomas can spend a lot of time in the future world, whereas only a few minutes have passed once he returns to the present world.
In the future world, Thomas learns that, in the present world, a virus will emerge that will kill many, setting the stage for terrorists to hold the world hostage with an anti-virus. This somehow relates to the end times: the great deception and the Great Tribulation. This virus will be a mutation of a vaccine that is designed to do a lot of good for the world in eradicating disease. When Thomas gets back to the present world, he tries to warn people about the vaccine. As in the movie Frequency, a way to do this is to go into the future world and find out some information about the near future to share with the present world, which will then take Thomas seriously because he can predict the future. In Thomas’ case, Thomas learns and shares who will win the Kentucky Derby. Thomas does that, and he also kidnaps the French lady who is making the vaccine. In the course of this story, it turns out that Thomas is actually precipitating the events that he is trying to prevent.
The future world is like the Garden of Eden. Elyon is the benevolent god of that world. There is a black forest with evil bats, and people are warned not to drink the water from that forest because it could enable evil to spread outside of the Black Forest. Well, seduced by the evil bat Teeleh, the Adam character, Tanis, is tempted by the prospect of power and knowledge and drinks the forbidden water. The result is that an evil disease spreads on the inhabitants of the earth, a disease of dried skin. But people can stay clean if they wash in certain pools of water on a regular basis.
War emerges between a horde of scabs, who want to take possession of all of the land and recoil from bathing in the water because it is painful, and the faithful few who bathe regularly in the water. The faithful few believe that they are ordered by Elyon to stand against the Teeleh-worshipping scabs and to kill as many of them as possible, but a renegade from the faithful few, a man named Justin, reminds them that Elyon made the scabs, too, and proposes defeating the scabs by loving them. Justin is put to death as part of a peace agreement between the scabs and the leaders of the faithful few, and it turns out that Justin was actually Elyon, meaning that Justin is a Jesus figure. After Justin dies and rises again, his legacy is coopted by various religious agendas, as some say that the faithful few should accept the scabs as they are out of love, while others say that the scabs need to repent first by bathing in water. The “peace” that Justin’s death brokered also has some problems, as syncretism develops between the Elyon religion and the Teeleh religion of the scabs, and religion becomes a way to control people, while simultaneously convincing them that they are not being controlled by human authorities.
These are intriguing concepts, so I cannot identify why exactly the books after the first one bored me. Maybe I was hoping for more theological depth or character development rather than a lot of action-packed scenes. Perhaps, at this particular time in my life, I am hungering for other kinds of books. I will say, though, that the very end did intrigue me. We learn at the end that the author of the story was a man named Billy. In the first book of the series, Thomas encounters a man named Bill in the Black Forest right after he wakes up for the first time in the future world. Bill seems to know Thomas and is encouraging Thomas to drink the water. Teeleh later tells Thomas that Thomas and Bill crashed into that world on a spaceship. The righteous bats, however, are telling Thomas that Bill is someone whom the evil bats conjured up to deceive Thomas into drinking the forbidden water. Is the Bill who wrote the story the same person as the Bill in the first book? Perhaps I will read other books and see if I can find out!