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by Randall Ingermanson
Published by Zondervan, 2004
Highly recommended by: Greg Slade
Randall Ingermanson has been one of the shining gems I have discovered while doing research for the Christian Fandom web site over the past few years. When I first started the Science Fiction and Christianity site (which I merged into Christian Fandom back in 2000), I had assumed that most of the time would be spent talking about C.S. Lewis' Cosmic Trilogy and secular SF which dealt with Christian characters or themes, because the other Christian SF I had found at that time was pretty rare and, to be honest, pretty bad. Since then, I have discovered a lot more specifically Christian SF. Some of it is really astoundingly bad. Much of it is just mediocre. A number of authors show real skill in writing, and just need some polishing to produce excellent work. However, a shining few authors have turned up who produce stories which combine real writing skill with spiritual insight. I have absolutely no qualms in recommending these books to anybody. Even non-Christians, who may not agree with the theological content, cannot dismiss the books as "tracts disguised as fiction," as they often can dismiss lower-quality Christian fiction. These works work as stories: they are satisfying reads, and the spiritual issues which are covered come realistically out of the life situations in the stories, rather than bolted on as an afterthought.
Of course, since I have gone into all this detail about what I like about certain Christian SF works, it should come as no surprise to you that Retribution is one of those works. The story began in Transgression, and continues in Premonition, which is the first book in Ingermanson's "City of God" trilogy. (I jokingly refer to the stand-alone title and the trilogy, collectively, as Randy's "ion" books.) The setting is Jerusalem, in the years leading up to the Jewish revolt against the Romans, which began in 66 AD, and ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of the Jews from Palestine. Rivka Meyers is an archaeologist, and Ari Kazan is a physicist. Through the events recounted in Transgression, they end up trapped in the First Century, and besides trying to fit into a culture completely different from the ones they grew up in, they must grapple with their knowledge of the impending destruction of the city and all their friends.
Ingermanson weaves together known historical people and events with his own fictional characters, and deals realistically with moral and spiritual issues coming out of the dramatic setting. I should probably warn readers that he also includes an account of how crucifixion actually kills people, so that readers get the full horror of the one part of the process which was glossed over in Mel Gibson's controversial film, The Passion of the Christ. Nevertheless, despite the horrors which Ingermanson relates, the story is inspiring, redemptive, and hopeful. I eagerly look forward to seeing the concluding book in the series. (November, 2004)
In A.D. 66, atrocity upon injustice transforms drought-stricken Jerusalem and surrounding Judea into a tinderbox of rebellion poised to explode against the oppressive Roman government. Ari Kazan and his wife, Rivka Meyers, are time travelers from the 21st century trapped in the terrifying events of the past. From her study of history, Rivka knows the horrible events that are about to unfold, including the destruction of Jerusalem. Then she begins to hear "oracles" from the Lord. But will anyone in this male-dominated society listen to the word of a mere woman? Ari knows the cause is hopeless, but how can he abandon his friends to the slaughter when his knowledge of engineering might postpone the inevitable? What sacrifice might God require from each of them in order to fulfill their roles in the coming crisis? Thematically brilliant, this well-crafted and heart-wrenching new installment of the City of God series beckons readers to step into the Biblical and historical past. Ari, Rivka, their friends and even their enemies flow effortlessly off the pages into the inner reality of our minds. Jill Nelson (January, 2005)
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