Lion Of Babylon, by Davis Bunn

28 04 2011

Christmas found me halfway through a free online book by Mary Shelly, called The Last Man, a story about how a plague wipes out the entire human population of Earth.  At least, I think that’s what happens, though I haven’t finished it, yet.  Shelly was, by the way, the same famous writer who wrote the classic story of Frankenstein.  When I read stories written by women, I generally expect a romance, or some melodramatic tale of a destructive relationship.  I suspect that Mary Shelly had a brutal childhood.

Christmas rescued me from this madness with a tall stack of books, which managed to last just up to my birthday, when I was gloriously bestowed with another tall stack of books.  Needless to say, I like books.  Specifically, I like novels written by Christians.  I considered that I could start a web log on the subject of Christian fiction and actually have plenty of writing material to work with.  Moreover, I might actually be something of an expert on the subject, at least until a major earthquake buries me under these tomes.  However, I realized that I haven’t really earned that right, because I have yet to really write a book of my own.  Criticism is so unbelievably cheap and easy, whereas a lovingly crafted novel is the work of much suffering.   This blog that you read was meant to be timeless.  I wanted anyone to be able to find any page of it at any time, whether tomorrow or twenty years from now, and find it equally relevant (or irrelevant) as the day it was written.  Book criticism is not timeless, and it lacks that certain abstractness about life that I aim to discuss.  Nevertheless, I make an exception here.

My reading marathon ended with Travis Thrasher’s book, Solitary, which must certainly be the single most depressing novel I have ever read.  It’s supposed to be a young adult fiction, but I can only assume it was meant to reduce the world population by pushing suicidal teens over the edge.  The ending was a punch in the gut.  On that sour note, I was to return to The Last Man to see how the whole world dies, when my wife received a free, unpublished novel in the mail.  Apparently, Bethany House noticed her purchasing habits through the local bookstore and decided that she might like an action thriller novel, unasked for, free of charge.  Bethany House doesn’t know my wife.  If the cover doesn’t have an Amish person on it, then she probably hasn’t read it.  Needless to say, she was the single greatest giver of my reading pleasure these last few months.

Thanks to Bethany House for the free book.  Of course, they were probably hoping for some free advertising out of it.  At the least, I’m sure they wanted us to tell our…friends, whatever those are.  It occurs to me that this post was about the closest I could come to paying the $14.99 worth of goods and services needed to cover the cost of it, now that I’ll never need to actually buy a copy.  So, here’s the first post I ever got paid to write, in a manner of speaking.

Davis Bunn’s Lion Of Babylon was a fun read.  I would rank it somewhere in the top twenty percent of Christian books I’ve read.  The setting is Iraq, and three Americans have been kidnapped, possibly for religious reasons, but no ransom has been demanded.  Their intended rescuer, Marc Royce, is an ex-intelligence officer, fired for putting his dying wife above his job.  For some reason, his former boss wanted him back.  Perhaps it was because Marc was a personal friend of one of the victims.  Here you have a guy with no recent experience in espionage, unable to speak the local language, getting dropped into a hostile territory to find some people, without a single lead.  If that weren’t enough, some unknown number of American officials would do whatever they could to prevent this rescue.  Through most of the book, Marc manages to save probably over a hundred people, at least, from children to a very important imam.  In fact, he seems to be doing just about everything except the one mission he originally set out to do.  Doing so earns him the respect of the Iraqi people, who call him a lion, their term for a hero.  There’s more at stake to this plot than the rescue of a few Americans.  The entire nation of Iraq stands to crumble to Iranian control if Marc fails.

The over-all feel of the book is that it starts out with a sort of cloak-and-dagger intrigue, but it ends up as an action-packed gunslinger.  The intrigue unfolds to something not terribly complex.  It wasn’t the book’s strongest point.  Setting and characterization were its dominant strengths.  For an American to write a plot with an Iraqi setting takes a certain amount of research, and Bunn did well enough to convince a reader that he had probably been there, himself.  If I didn’t get a glimpse into the post-war life in Iraq, then the book did an excellent job of tricking me into thinking that I did.  Bunn’s characters were easy to like, and, except for the protagonist, were utterly human.  He tried to make Marc a realistic personality, but it’s hard to have a character save a nation and still seem like the sort of person I might have met in church on any given Sunday.  I liked this book.  It felt genuinely Christian.

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So there’s your fifteen dollar post.  I would hate to think that anyone might accuse me of getting very much steeped in commercialism, though.  I mean, I would certainly write a post in order to get a free book, but I wouldn’t stoop to loading my blog with advertisements.  I’m not doing this for the money, after all.  Well, I wouldn’t over-do it on the ads, anyway.  I’m not advertising a book.  I just thought I’d happen to mention it.

Incidentally, the ISBN number is 978-0-7642-0905-5, available July 2011.

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If any publishers out there want to send me another free book to review, send them to…eh, well, take a wild guess.  This isn’t a commercial web site after all.  It’s not like I’ve sold myself out, or anything.

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