I just finished reading a book called The Ninth Generation by John Owens. (I'm on spring break from school and have time for such things ...) I was introduced to the book itself by the author when he saw my novel And The Beat Goes On on line and noted that it also dealt with the Nephilim. I guess it goes to show you that somebody, somewhere out there is reading something I've written! In any case, I did enjoy this book for a number of reasons, although I do also have a few criticisms. Let's deal with the positives first.
The book is set in a pre-flood world and centres mostly around a man named Lameck, the father of Noah. Owens has done a fabulous job of painting a very descriptive and believable picture of what the earth was like at that time. His imagery is rich and thorough. It is obvious he has done extensive research on the topic, and he presents the earth, as it would have appeared under a young-earth model of creationism, in a detailed and imaginative way. I also appreciated the way he constructed an explanation for the presense of the Nephilim - the giants of old. There is lots of debate among Biblical scholars about who these 'men' really were, but Owens takes a stand on the side of the supernatural, which gives his version that sense of fantasy not unlike those metaphoric 'giants', Tolkien and Lewis. I also saw glimpses of Frank Peretti's classic This Present Darkness, as he delves into the spirit realm, although Owens treats the existance of spirits and angelic beings in a much more literal way. Early humans could apparently see and interact with supernatural beings on a daily basis. This aspect of the book certainly appealed to me since I do love the fantasy/Sci-fi genre and Owens delivered on that score. One other thing that I noted was how Owens integrates an explanation for our plethora of mythical creatures like satyrs, mermaids, etc. It came near the end of the book, and was quite subtle, but very effective. It was a thought I had never considered before and I was duly impressed. (If you want to know what happens you'll have to read for yourself!)
On the negative side, I sometimes found the writing style itself getting in the way of the story. It comes across as quite expository at times - a.k.a. Writing 101's Rule # 1: less telling and more showing. There was just too much explaining in certain spots, as if the author really wanted us to get all of the information (very good information, mind you) instead of letting the story unfold. Its like he really wanted us to understand the young-earth creationist point of view, which fortunately I do have an interest in, but it did cause almost a disconnect while reading. "Oh, so we're taking a break from the story part now, and we're going to have a bit of a lecture on pre-flood zoology..." As I said, my interest in the topic kept me reading, as did the fact that the story line itself was really quite intriguing and I wanted to get back to it to see what would happen next. I just wish there would have been a way to marry the two more cohesively.
I also thought the dialogue could have been fleshed out more. Again, what could have been showed to us through dialogue and interaction among characters was sometimes just explained so that we could move forward to the next scene. In that regard, I could easily see this story as a trilogy rather than just a single novel. I think that kind of treatment would have allowed more character development and also, there were plenty of climactic moments on which to end one novel and start another. Because of its Tolkien-esque qualities, I could definitely see this story written in that way. I know thats a tall order, but it's just my opinion.
My final criticism has both good and bad points. The book is absolutely evangelistic without a doubt. Owens spends a lot of time expounding on the magnificence of God and His future plans for the redemption of mankind. As a Christian, I was able to read and agree wholeheartedly, but I couldn't help but think that for a non-Christian, or even someone nominally searching in their faith, it just might be too much. I hope and pray that there will be people reading this book who come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but I almost doubt that they would get that far in their reading. Its a little too preachy in places. It definitely targets a solid Christian market (not that that's a bad thing) and I do think it is very timely in explaining creation and all its bumpy questions, expecially to a generation that has been so bombarded with other teaching and that is very ungrounded in the fundamentals of the faith.
My final recommendation? Read this book! The story itself is engaging, imaginative and exciting. It is full of Biblical truth and is well researched. It explains very concisely the events leading up to the flood and gives plausible explanations for all kinds of natural phenomenon that might be confusing because of the evolutionary teaching that most people have received. It has an imaginative supernatural element which adds excitement and intrigue. Finally, I am impressed with the author for taking on such an epic topic which also has the potential to be quite controversial. His thoughts deserve to be shared.