For some reason, the last two library books I randomly picked up turned out to be the literary equivalent of “Christian rock.” In a word, awful! The first, which I will review here, is “The Sanctuary” by Ted Dekker. It is purportedly a debate on sacrifice and love, and the possibilities of rehabilitation and salvation–all wrapped in the bloody garb of a psycho-thriller. Yikes! The second, which I will review next, is “The Chair” by James L. Rubart.
The Sanctuary is about a “Christian” warden, who somehow manages to get complete and total charge of a new and innovative prison and brings under his wildly sadistic heel a former priest-turned-vigilante serving 50 years for murder. By the time the novel comes to an end, we learn there was also a revenge factor going on with regard to the ex-priest, but in the meanwhile, the poor guy–along with several hundred other inmates caught in the psycho warden’s spider web–are slated to be broken in body and spirit, allegedly in order to be re-born whole and clean, at least according to the warden’s demented view of the world. The story is told both from the standpoint of the ex-priest’s seriously neurotic girlfriend, who gets trapped in the spiderweb as she tries to help him, and that of the ex-priest himself, who has taken a vow of non-violence … a little bit too late, it appears.
The biggest problem with The Sanctuary, apart from its oxymoronic conceit, is that the “hero” ex-priest we are presented with is a very disturbed character who, due to his ravaged and violent youth, is a sympathetic victim but hardly a hero. His girlfriend, who launches herself into insanely violent situations without a thought in the world about the consequences, is so dumb as to be laughable. In fact, the storyline is terrifying, the plot is filled with sadistic torture, the characters are cartoonish and absurd, and the ending downright ridiculous. A surprise in the plot thrown at us near the end is just about the novel’s only redeeming quality.
Scattered throughout the novel are lengthy lectures and contemplations on the nature of spiritual redemption, but they are almost a mockery of what they are clearly intended to be, due to such blatant manipulation of the reader by the author. All in all, a disaster of a book. How it got so many positive reviews is beyond me!