February 2011 Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour: The God Hater, Day 1

Christian Fantasy CSFF Blog Tour

Welcome to February’s blog tour! This month, we’re featuring The God Hater by Bill Myers. To be honest, based upon the story concept alone, I expected to dislike this book. However, I did make it through the entire story and ended up with mixed feelings.

The book opens with Nicolas Mackenzie, an atheist philosophy professor, trashing a pastor and Christianity in general on live television. He’s set in his atheistic beliefs and takes pleasure in dismantling the various faiths of others. However, his life remains empty, with no family, few friends, and little to enrich it besides logic and academics. When his renegade brother Travis comes back into his life, his carefully ordered world gets turned upside down.

Backed by billionaires and aided by other techies, Travis has created artificial intelligence and an intricate virtual reality realm to contain the individual personalities he’s fashioned. This virtual reality has the power to show evolving social interactions, thereby giving the owners the ability to predict the future. But they have a problem, a fatal flaw in the tool. The program must rest upon a foundation of free-will, but every simulation that allows these individuals freedom of choice ends up self-destructing. To avoid this in the future, they need to introduce a natural philosophy to the system, and who better to help with this than Nicolas? When a variety of humanistic theologies and mystic belief systems fail, Nicolas comes to the conclusion that they will have to pass down some sort of “Law” to enable the people to survive, but what begins as a simple set of precepts becomes a legalistic system that chokes the life from the world. The only solution is for a virtual Nicolas to enter the realm he’s created. You can probably guess what comes next.

The book definitely had strengths–the ingenuity displayed in the virtual reality, some plot twists in the real world storyline, and plenty of conflict. However, I found myself unable to connect with the characters and because of that, I wasn’t gripped by moments that should have been emotionally wrenching. There were a number of reasons for the disconnect. Jumping between several characters and several storylines (in the virtual world and our own) didn’t give a lot of time to identify with any one individual. Furthermore, Nicolas sometimes came across as a stereotype, rather than a distinct individual, and in the beginning his motivations were unclear and unsympathetic, despite several “pet the dog” moments intended to show a better part of his character. Granted, he does grow over the course of the story, but I wasn’t invested enough in him as a character to truly care.

In addition, the prose was clunky in places and at times distracted from the actual story. Despite these shortcomings, Myers explores an interesting notion–the gospel in a modern-day virtual reality. For the most part, he handles the parallel elements to Christianity in a natural way, which was much less preachy than I expected. Yes, it’s clear from the beginning what will come, but it’s presented fairly well.

Overall, I found The God Hater a mildly entertaining tale, but not one I’d personally recommend. However, everyone has different tastes in reading material, and The God Hater collected a glowing list of endorsements from other well-known writers. It’s certainly inventive, so if the idea of exploring the gospel in a virtual realm intrigues you, you may enjoy this one.

For other perspectives on The God Hater, visit the tour stops below:


Comments

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller
    February 21, 2011 - 5:56 pm · Reply

    Good review, Sarah. I apparently liked the book more than you did, but that’s because I connected with the opening scene so much (I mentioned this in my post today).

    I thought the premise was excellent, and the parallels with the virtual community’s relationship with programmer was a remarkably clear way of showing our real world relationship with God.

    Of all the characters, I think I felt closes to Alpha. He was the most sympathetic, I think. I was also sympathetic to Annie, but her part of the story was more tangential. And good old Nicholas. Though I didn’t feel close to him, I felt like I understood him.

    Anyway, thanks for a good kick-off to this tour!

    Becky

    • Sarah Sawyer
      February 22, 2011 - 12:23 pm · Reply

      It’s interesting the things that cause us to connect or disconnect from a book, almost immediately. It makes sense that a real-life experience would kindle your interest in a fictive treatment of a similar situation.

      In my case, one of the elements working against the book from the beginning was (ironically) one of Bill Myers’ earlier books, The Bloodstone Chronicles (YA fantasy). I haven’t read it in years, but I still remember a part of the plot that was almost identical to this story–a girl has the opportunity to create what is in essence a virtual reality. This reality becomes polluted by sin, and she must decide whether to enter it and save her creations or let them perish. So there was a little bit of a “been there, done that” feeling when I saw the premise of this book.

      There were a variety of other components that broke the fictive dream for me at points during the story and ultimately prevented me from becoming as engaged with the tale as I would have liked.

      That said, I agree that it’s a creative idea and the parallels with real-world faith and the gospel were clear and vivid. I also sympathized most with Alpha and would have liked more time in his perspective.

      As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, one of the things I really enjoy about this tour is the variety of viewpoints–even when I seem to be in the minority with my perspective! 🙂

  • Matthew
    August 26, 2015 - 1:56 am · Reply

    Thanks for stopping by, John! I alyaws appreciate the perspective you share during the tours, even when I have a different take on the story. Krawg’s story made a deep impression on me when I read Raven’s Ladder, so I was looking for that to be further fleshed out in The Ale Boy’s Feast. Actually, I also have the feeling that there’s more to the books than I observed in my first reading, so I look forward to revisiting them one day.

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