Bethany House, 393 pages, $11.99
Good contemporary Christian allegory is rare, but this first-time novelist delivers an engrossing, well-paced contribution to the genre. Think The Time Machine meets Pilgrim's Progress. At loose ends after her college graduation, Callie Hayes volunteers for a psychology experiment to earn some quick cash. The experiment quickly turns into a frightening ordeal. Callie is unwillingly transported to the alien world of the Arena, where gruesome Trogs lurk, waiting to torture, rape, and eat their human victims. To return home, Callie and others stranded in the Arena must find their way using a field manual (the Bible) to look for the exit in the Inner Realm (salvation). Those who pass through the fire curtains (sin) find temporary benefits, but are irrevocably changed for the worse. However, Elhanu (Christ) quietly offers assistance as they make their final choices.
Karen Hancock's background as a wildlife biologist and artist undoubtedly contributes to the unusual flora, fauna, and vivid settings that enrich the novel. The genuinely enthralling mix of adventure, romance, and vivid imagery fused with spiritual symbolism invites readers to lose themselves in Hancock's imaginary world.
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