Grasping for the Wind Rotating Header Image

Book Review: The Shadow and Night by Chris Walley

* Genre: Science Fiction
* ISBN: 1414313276
* ISBN-13: 9781414313276
* Format: Hardcover, 640pp
* Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
* Pub. Date: October 2006
* Series: The Lamb Among the Stars
* Read the First Chapter
* Read an interview with Chris Walley

AMAZING! There is simply no other word to describe Chris Walley�s speculative fiction novel The Shadow and Night. I just could not put this one down. Actually a combination of two books previously published, The Shadow and Night is the first novel in a three part trilogy called the Lamb Among the Stars (originally published in four volumes). Walley spent many years perfecting this series, and his efforts have born fruit in this grand space opera.

In The Shadow and Night mankind has reached the stars. But he has found that only Earth supports any life beyond the minutest of single-celled organisms. Yet man has learned to make worlds suitable for his own life. Due to what is know as the Great Intervention (a spiritual revival of humanity in which all come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ) a great peace has existed for eleven centuries. During this time, Earth and all the many Made Worlds have prospered so that mankind serves one another in peace and love, and evil (as we know it) is a thing of the past. On the far edge of the universe, the Made World Farholme has only just begun its young life.

Merral is a young forester on the Made World of Farholme. In the course of his duties, he comes across some very strange occurrences. Strange, alien beasts are seen on the surface of Farholme, and human beings begin to act strangely, cruelly toward each other, shattering the peace that has existed for millennia. And then the unthinkable happens, and contact with the other worlds is lost. Merral is forced to a take on the mantle of leader, a title for which he is gifted but that he despairs to take.

The Shadow and Night is told entirely from Merral�s perspective. Merral�s inner struggles and outward failures and successes become our own. Walley has excellently crafted a man of great ability but who is flawed at his very core. This is a character anyone with the least humility can identify as themselves. He is a man who understands evil as a concept, but when forced to experience it firsthand, almost crumples under the strain. Merral is an exceptionally compelling character, and I read on mostly because I wanted to know how Merral would deal with the philosophical and physical conundrums Walley forces him to experience.

The novel is long at over 600 pages so reading it is not for the faint of heart. Walley has also chosen to build a slow tension for his story, rather than leaping from action sequence to action sequence. I think some readers might find this dull, although his character study was so intense and engrossing, that I didn�t feel the loss. He takes time to ponder the effect of events on his characters, and to have them grapple and wrestle with philosophy, although in a practical way. For instance, when faced with evil, at what point should a person fight against it, and at what point is diplomacy in order? When confronted with temptations, how should a person react? These are struggles Merral goes through, and to a lesser extent his supporting characters, but it is Merral who we most identify with.

As I have said, there is little action in the story. The story takes place on the planet of Farholme (in a sense reminding me of the way Dune takes place on only one planet) and has little space action. There are three big action sequences, so readers look for epic space battles or hand to hand combat will be disappointed. The Shadow and Night is about the battle between good and evil, mostly within yourself, especially in the face of evil circumstances. It is this that drives the plot. The slow build of the tension only makes the final confrontation all the more epic.

There are some predictable elements. There is an obvious set-up for a particular character to be killed, but I still felt the loss. Walley also overuses the word �suddenly�. As I would read the sentences with the word in it, I felt that many times he could have done without and have been just as effective in communicating his point, sometimes even more so. Some of the early dialogue is a bit wooden, but as the characters deepen from two dimensions to three during the narrative, this feeling disappears.

Some readers will also take exception at the explicitly Christian nature of the novel. Walley creates a setting in which all people believe in the Christian view of Heaven and Hell, and believe in the salvation offered by Jesus Christ. The setting is based in a Christian postmillennial view of history, but the novel is not proselytizing in any way. (For more on the belief system he uses, check out �Puritans in Space�.) Walley himself stated �the purpose of this book is not to open a theological debate nor engage in �fictionalized theology�; it is simply to sue this as a setting for a grand tale.� (from an accompanying letter to the book) And I think that he has truly fulfilled that goal. In its way, this novel is no more proselytizing than any book written by a secularist or agnostic. It is simply a narrative that uses one of the great beliefs of our day to create a setting and story set far into the future.

Walley, a geologist and teacher, also weaves great science into the story. His machines are believable, and the science behind them solid. The Shadow and Night weaves religion and science together so that there is continuity between the two. With the culture he has set up, the scientific feats of Farholme make sense. He is also very descriptive, drawing on his Welsh heritage to write a novel as filled with description as the sagas of the ancient Celts. Although perhaps not as poetic as those sagas, his writing shows a love of the land and nature.

This is a not a fast paced novel by any means. Yet, I couldn�t put it down. I sped through the pages, desperate to find out what was to happen to Merral and Vero, Anya and Perena. Walley builds the tension so slowly and subtly, it is like reading a John Grisham thriller. When the final culmination of events came, I was literally sitting upright on the edge of my seat. I highly recommend this novel. The Shadow and Night is a literary speculative fiction novel, and needs to be read by anyone trying to understand �the need to fight evil without becoming evil� (from an accompanying letter to the book). The Shadow and Night is a tale that fans of authors like George R. R. Martin, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Frank Herbert are sure to enjoy, if not agree with philosophically. This book is a must read for all science fiction fans.

This review is part of the February 2008 CSFF Blog Tour. Other participants include:

Brandon Barr; Jim Black; Justin Boyer; Grace Bridges; Jackie Castle; Carol Bruce Collett ; Valerie Comer; CSFF Blog Tour; Gene Curtis; D. G. D. Davidson; Chris Deanne; Janey DeMeo; Jeff Draper; April Erwin; Marcus Goodyear; Rebecca Grabill ; Jill Hart; Katie Hart; Michael Heald; Timothy Hicks; Christopher Hopper; Heather R. Hunt; Jason Joyner; Kait; Carol Keen; Mike Lynch; Margaret; Rachel Marks; Shannon McNear; Melissa Meeks; Rebecca LuElla Miller; Mirtika or Mir’s Here; Pamela Morrisson; Eve Nielsen; John W. Otte; John Ottinger; Deena Peterson; Rachelle; Steve Rice; Ashley Rutherford; Chawna Schroeder; James Somers; Rachelle Sperling; Donna Swanson; Steve Trower; Speculative Faith; Robert Treskillard; Jason Waguespac; Laura Williams; Timothy Wise