By Krista McGee
Thomas Nelson Publishers
21 January 2014
Luminary is the second of three post-apocalyptic novels centering around Thalli and her quest from anomaly… to luminary… to revolutionary. (Here’s my review of the first book, Anomaly, from last August.) The third book in the trilogy comes out in July this year and, as you may have guessed, is titled Revolutionary.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I really, really wanted to like Luminary—I enjoy reading stories with dystopian futures wherein the characters struggle and overcome—but it just felt like to too much obvious God stuff for me. I like rooting for the underdog, and the society set up in this trilogy makes Christianity an underdog belief system, but that’s difficult for me to swallow because it’s not an underdog belief system now.
The first book covers Thalli’s discovery of “the Designer” and her struggle to control her emotions in order to save her own life in an underground city where emotions and sickness—even something as mild as a head cold—are banned because the leaders deemed them dangerous to society. After all, emotions and sicknesses can lead to war, pandemics, and death. The Designer is introduced, but it’s not until the end of the book, when she takes a leap of faith, that it’s gets heavy on the Christian extended metaphor.
Well, in Luminary, the characters have already been introduced to the Designer and have learned to pray (“It means he’s talking to the Designer” one character says to another when she asks what ‘praying’ is). All of the main characters from the first book—Thalli, Berk, Rhen, and the old man John—have escaped the confines of their former underground home to the surface above. Thalli’s first love, blooming with Berk in Anomaly, is effectively shut down by Berk and Rhen’s close relationship as the group makes their collective way in a world completely new to them. (Well, the world’s not new to John, but he hasn’t seen it in a while, either, and he spends most of his time praying and thanking the Designer for all that happens to them, the good and the bad.)
But wait! Thalli and the group come upon a city named New Hope, and then they get mixed up in the New Hope’s war with another city, Athens, and its king. The king is, of course, evil and murderous, but his son Alex and daughter Helen try to help Thalli anyway. Thalli’s brand new faith in the Designer is sorely tested, but she, at least, survives the novel. Unfortunately, not all the characters are so lucky.
As there are two (or more) sides to every story, and we learned the Scientists’ side in the first novel, in Luminary we learn “what really happened all those years ago” and Thalli must reassess everything she’s ever been taught.
It’s not bad writing, and it’s not a poor storyline; it just has too much “God is obviously the only way” stuff for my liking. The dichotomy that’s written into the novel doesn’t sit well with me, and it doesn’t really strike me as authentic: it’s as though the author is simultaneously saying “it’s complicated” and “not everything is as complicated as it may at first seem” and doesn’t do justice to either statement. Reading Luminary feels to me like the author had an archetype and tried to make the story fit into her agenda, rather than writing the story freely and then looking for the lessons that could be emphasized upon further editing.
DISCLAIMER: I received Luminary free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for this review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.