Monday, April 12, 2010

Lost Mission by Athol Dickson

Among the dirt-poor barrios and ultra-wealthy enclaves lining the hills of southern California, a construction project unearths a long-lost Spanish mission. This discovery sets off a chain of events that presents four unrelated people—Reverend Tucker Lockwood, Concha Rivera, Delano Jones, and Detective Harmony Killeen—with difficult choices. In every case, a greater good could be served with a compromise of some basic moral value. Lockwood could steal to feed the poor. Delano Jones could lie—or at least bury the truth—to protect his monument to God's law. Concha Rivera, a Christian with a strong sense of mission, could trespass to preach the Gospel. Detective Killeen could betray her sense of legal responsibility to defend her family. It seems these devil's alternatives will inspire these modern people to perpetuate the very crime that left the mission buried and forgotten 250 years ago—a mystery that is gradually revealed through research into a mysterious triptych excavated at the mission site, as well as through historical flashbacks. At least two themes of magical realism appear repeatedly through the story. First is the appearances of Santos, a mysterious being characterized by a crooked nose, in both the contemporary and historical storylines. And second, the gradual appearance of faces on the triptych as the story's four protagonists—often with the help of a mysterious Hispanic man with the crooked nose—decide whether they will repeat the mistakes of the past.

Lost Mission was not what I was expecting from the description: "Magical Realism." Maybe that was just my misunderstanding, but it never really grabbed my interest. I found the time jumping a bit of a distraction, though once you get used to it and realize the format of the storytelling it isn't a problem. Honestly this is not the kind of novel I would buy and so I found myself laboring to finish it. Dickson is obviously a good writer, it just wasn't my cup of tea.


Keanan Brand said...

Though it's used to market this book, I'm not sure quite what I think about the term "magical realism" being applied to fiction written by a Christian. Seems oxymoronic. I don't have a soapbox about it; I'm just not sure about it.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the book, and admired how Dickson brought together the various storylines. Masterfully done.

But I do understand how the style (the writing and the story format) might have "turned off" some readers.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the author has an obvious writing ability, but that this book just wasn't easy to get through. I didn't finish it.

Jason said...

Ummm...interesting. I'm not sure what you're going for here. Was the "synopsis" in the first paragraph supposed to be sarcastic?

I'm sorry you didn't get into the book. I suppose it isn't for everyone, but I don't think your first paragraph here does it justice, with so many details wrong. I'm curious to your motivation behind this post.

Anyway, I hope you'll respond. I'm interested in your thoughts, as you've been a longstanding part of the CSFF.


Jason said...


Let me apologize for the tone of my previous comment. I see now that you got the first paragraph off of the Amazon page. That page is wildly inaccurate - why I don't know. When I came across your blog I thought it was some weird joke. I should've known better - as I said, I know you've been a member here for a long time. I noticed the same inaccuracies posted on another blog and tracked down where the misinformation is coming from.

I don't know who posted that on Amazon, but you may want to cut that part out. Either way, again I apologize to jumping to some unfounded conclusions.


Krysti said...

You know, I honestly don't remember the detective playing much of a part in the story...

Of course, I read it over a month ago now, so that could possibly be why.

James Somers said...


Hey no problem...Even if I don't particularly enjoy a novel on the blog tour, I will at least throw up the Amazon synop in order to be fair to the author...many times I don't enjoy it because of my tastes rather than the story itself. Dickson's reviews are excellent, so I tried to let people know that it was probably just my personal preferences and I honestly was expecting something a bit more fantasy oriented by the "magical realism," description.

Keanan- I would agree on how the magical stuff tends to the christian fiction...for instance, I'm not sure at all why the last blog tour book about faeries (and nothing discernable, even by allegory of God) would be reviewed on this blog tour...but I have to say I did enjoy the story anyway.

Rebecca LuElla Miller said...

As I said on another blog, "miraculous realism" would probably be the better term in the Christian sub-genre. Someone else chose to refer to it as supernatural suspense. There is a hint of the supernatural and suggestions of the miraculous. It's not stated clearly.

As for Faery Rebel and it's spot on the tour, I'd say it's on the tour because of the themes of love, redemption, and self-sacrifice. No, there isn't any allegorical depiction of God, but there are types of Christ, just as Moses is a type of Him, just as Isaac is and so is the substitutionary lamb slain in his place. Not every story will be overt, and some of us like those as much as the ones that are.

Hopefully we can feature enough books of different kinds that lots of people will find the ones they enjoy. I think one of the reasons people jump to the conclusion that they don't like Christian fantasy is because they haven't found the kind of fantasy (or speculative) they like.


James Somers said...

I suppose it's a fine line, although at some point you can seemingly claim to find Christ in almost anything...which is unlikely from a biblical standpoint...but that's the preacher in me talking :)

Nathan R. Petrie said...

I've read some pretty good Christian Fantasy's just another tool. All depends on the source of the magic in my opinion.

By the way, I saw on your blogger profile that you're a fan of Wayne Batson's The Door Within Trilogy! Me too! One of his writing friends, Bryan Davis, wrote a really good book called Starlighter that I think you'd enjoy. I'm giving it away for free on my blog! If you're interested, stop in and enter!