The Skin Map Review

When I heard Stephen Lawhead was writing a new book, I was thrilled. When I learned the title of the new book was The Skin Map, I was confused. It didn’t sound very … well… Lawhead-y. However, as I began reading this beginning to a brand new series, I swiftly became engrossed in the story.

Filled with descriptions that beguile all five senses and all the beauty and charm of the language I have come to expect from Lawhead, this book is a fascinating blend of fantasy and sci-fi. In the world of The Skin Map, there is an Omni-verse, a universe filled with alternate realities that are easily accessible to those who know where to look via roads known as “ley lines.” These alternate realities are also located in different “time zones” as it were, and thus jumping from one reality to the next also inevitably includes a certain amount of time travel.

The book follows the stories of several different characters: Kit Livingstone a young man from modern-day London, who encounters his great grandfather and is shown how to ley travel; Wilhelmina, Kit’s girlfriend, who, when Kit tries to prove to her that ley travel is real, gets trapped in 17th century Prague; Cosimo (Kit’s great grandfather) and Sir Henry, ley line adventurers who wish to use the ley lines for the betterment of science and humanity; Lord Burleigh, the villain of the story, whose motivations seem to stem from greed; and Arthur Flinders-Petrie, the “Ernest Shackleton” of the ley line adventurers who mapped out the ley lines and had them tattooed on his body so they could never be stolen or lost.

Something I love about this book is the masterful way Lawhead subtly uses his characters to point to Christ. He never beats his audience about the head with his beliefs, despite publishing with a Christian publishing house. Instead, he allows his books to unfold the message of his faith – either through characters whose faith is an integral part of who they are (such as Etzel), or through characters who don’t know what they believe and the conversations they have with other characters about questions they have (such as Kit and Lady Faythe). As always, Lawhead is unique in that he is not a writer of Christian Fiction. Rather, he is a Christian Author who writes Fiction.

On the flip side of this rave review I do have a couple of negatives to mention. First, is that I have to wait until next September to read the second book in the series. Second, don’t read this book expecting to have any questions answered. I was about 10 pages from the end when I realized that the book was leading me to a cliff-hanger ending, and I was going to have to wait for the rest of the series to find out what happens. Since Lawhead is delving back into sci-fi with this series, this first book was mainly an introduction to the characters, the concept of ley travel, and a tantalizing glimpse at the story this series will become.

Overall, I would say I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good blend of sci-fi, fantasy, and history as well as the idea of time travel and being able to mess with historical events.

Technically, nobody ever asked me for anything, but I’m sure that the FTC would like me to explain that I received this book for free but was not required by the publisher to give it a good review.

~ jenelle

A new adventure

Hey all, thought I’d share the prologue to the new story I’m writing. Let me know what you think!

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Prologue
Firelight flickered across the man’s face, shadows making his wrinkles seem deep, deeper than they were. The room was small and nearly empty, bare of decoration. There was a small rug, woven in threads of blue and gray, in front of the hearth and the wooden chair in which the old man sat staring into the dying fire. Three walls of the small garret room were lined with bookshelves and every shelf was filled with large, ancient, hard-bound books, dusty from disuse. In the middle of the room was a small, square table with two mismatched chairs. Against the one wall that had no shelves was a small counter with a sink that allowed running water, an odd luxury for so poor a dwelling. A cabinet held a few pieces of pottery, presumably for holding food, and further down the wall was an old cot with a straw mattress.
The old man sat hunched over, wrapped in an old cloak. His white beard hung nearly to his waist. In a different time he had kept his beard shorter and neatly combed, but what, really, was the point anymore? Closer inspection would have revealed that the tattered, gray cloak the man had pulled about his shoulders had once been very fine. It had once been a royal blue in color, with fabric as soft as a newborn chick and as waterproof as a duck’s feathers. It was lined with gray silk and trimmed with silver cords. But there was no one around to examine the cloak, none left to wonder how such a fine cloak had come into the possession of this old man living in this poor tower room.
The fire in the hearth had burned down to a handful of glowing embers and the room began to grow chilly. The man sighed and shifted, looking into the hearth and then glancing out the one window above the wash-basin at the rising silver moon. He could get more firewood easily, now that it was dark, and restarting the fire itself would require little effort at all, and yet there he sat, as immobile as carved stone, his face filled with bitter sorrow. What was the point? What point in keeping the fire burning? What point in keeping his post. All was well, all had been well, all would most likely continue to be well. For two hundred years, nothing had needed his attention. Perhaps allowing himself to slip into oblivion would not be a desertion of his duties after all. He long to sleep, to be reunited with his brothers. He glanced guiltily at the table as though to reassure himself, as though afraid that his very thoughts might cause some change. The orb, however, did not flicker.
The orb was the only decorative piece in the room: a small, round, glass ball no larger than an apple, made of what looked like blown glass and so delicate that a breath might cause it to shatter. It sat wrapped in the open jaws of a silver statue carved to look like a dragon in flight. the orb glowed a steady, pure blue and the man sighed again, a sound that was filled with both relief and weariness. If all was not well, the orb would become streaked with orange and red, but there would still be time, time to stop the darkness. If the streaks grew until the orb was overwhelmed… the old man shook his head, not liking to think about what that would mean.
It would not happen, it could not, he had seen to that. He pulled his cloak tighter and snapped his fingers, expending very little energy, but more than it would have taken to actually go get the wood from the nearby forest. The fire in the hearth blazed up, warming the room and chasing back the shadows that had risen up and threatened to overwhelm him. Dalmir blinked back tears at the sudden memories and scowled into the fire.

~ jenelle

Roadblock

I just sat down to do some editing, and hit a brick wall. I came to a part I had completely forgotten about and now don’t know what to do with. I need to discuss with my Editor. My knee-jerk reaction is to cut the entire section (about 6 pages worth of story), but I’m not sure.

Sigh.

Well, I guess I’ll go read something instead.

~ jenelle

Clash of the Titans

It’s been a while since I reviewed a movie here. So, here goes:

Last week… I don’t remember what day… Derek and I watched the new “Clash of the Titans.” Now, I went into this movie expecting it to be singularly ridiculous, somewhat amusing, fairly lacking in content, and pretty much laughable. I believed it would be entertaining, but what I did not expect, was that I was going to love it.

Very rarely do I watch a movie (especially a movie that I didn’t expect anything from) and wish that I had seen it in the theater. Possibly this is because I am pretty picky about the movies I go see (and am getting pickier as theater prices sky-rocket to ludicrous heights), or possibly it is because we watched the movie on my laptop, but either way, as we watched “Clash of the Titans” I found myself wishing that I had gone to see this movie when it was in theaters.

The visuals and special effects are fantastic. The monsters are realistic and frightening (but not horrifying to look at). The action is well-choreographed and intense, but not gory. The characters are likeable and heroic (as it should be in the retelling of a Greek myth), and they are none of them cowards.

The plot is pretty simplistic, which Derek listed as a con, but I list as a pro. You see, I am a student of mythology… being an English major and all… and the movie is pretty true to the story of Perseus. If you read Bullfinch’s Mythology, which is one of the best compilations of Greek and Roman myths that is out there, you will see the problem with turning any of them into a full-length movie: the longest story in the book is probably about 6 pages long and some of them are as short as a paragraph or two. Also, most of the stories are interconnected, so as to make it difficult to pick one out to tell without leaving your modern audience completely confused. Thus, the fact that the movie stuck closely to the storyline of the myth without becoming too tangled and confusing was, to me, a major bonus. The story was told with artful simplicity and although it strayed in a few places from the original myth which you can read if you click on that link… it did not do so by too many extraordinary leaps, and the leaps it did make gave the movie a focus and direction that is lacking in many of the myths and would make them hard to turn into movies (they tend to meander around a bit).

A few things I noticed while watching that did sort of bother me. In the movie, Queen Cassiopeia says that her daughter, Andromeda, is more beautiful than the gods. However, in the myth, Cassiopeia compares her own beauty to that of the gods, which is the vanity she is punished for and the reason that the gods demand her daughter as a sacrifice to the sea monster. Also, the movie has a Kraken threaten the city of Argos, instead of the sea monster Cetus. Now, I understand that, “Release the Kraken.” is much cooler to say than, “Release Cetus,” and it was probably one of those points that Liam Neeson’s agent negotiated for… however… the Kraken is from Norse mythology, while Cetus was from Greek mythology and is the creature that actually attacks Argos in the Perseus myth… so that kind of annoyed me. The other points where the plot strayed from the original myth were fairly minor and didn’t impact the overall story too much.

However, those two points were pretty minor in the grand scheme of things. There were no scantily clad people running around, I noticed one swear… mostly because it was so obviously out of place in the language of the time/place… and no sex scenes, for which I was thankful and quite impressed.

Overall, if you’re looking for something fun to watch on a Friday night, go ahead and rent this one. There’s action, adventure, great special effects, a rather fantastic soundtrack, good characters, and even a little bit of a plot, and nothing offensive to jar your senses as you watch the movie. It’s not a “thinking” movie, it’s not one that I’ll probably own. But it is one I’d be willing to watch again, because it was fun.

~ jenelle