A much-debated question among writers and readers is whether characters in a story have to be “likeable”. Some people can’t enjoy stories where they don’t like the characters. Others enjoy the complexities of flawed, unpleasant characters. But I don’t think likeability is the real issue.
Readers aren’t necessarily very good at describing why a book doesn’t work for them. It’s one thing to be able to sense that a story isn’t working for you, and another thing entirely to accurately diagnose the reasons for that. I think when readers complain about characters being “unlikeable”, it’s often a surface reaction, but the underlying problem is something different. After all, unpleasant characters can be compelling in the hands of a skilful writer. Continue reading
Today I preached at Grace Church Milton Keynes for the first time, where Bev and I have been going for just over a year. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to share from 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8 on how God’s Word prepares us for endurance and fruitfulness, even when faced with suffering and persecution. You can download the audio here, or read some of my other sermons.
Have you ever stopped to think what would you want your last words to be? We pay particular attention to someone's last words – there are lists and lists of "famous last words", such as Captain Oates' understated words on the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole as he left his tent, "I am just going outside and may be some time". Continue reading
One evening a couple of weeks ago, I headed into London to attend Kingdom Code, a meet-up for Christians in digital. I’d been aware of the group mainly via Twitter, and one of my colleagues from Scripture Union on the Guardians of Ancora project team suggested I go along. I’m glad I did, because it was a really interesting evening discussing how our values shape tech and tech shapes our values.
You can listen to the audio of Andy’s introduction on the Kingdom Code blog – what follows are my notes from and reflections on the evening. Continue reading
I love it when the clocks go forward.
After the long dark nights of winter, the days have already been getting longer for a while. It’s no longer already dark when I leave work, or when I arrive in the morning.
And then with the changing clocks, we take a collective step forward. Boom! An extra hour of sunlight in the evening.
And even though officially Spring has only just begun, it’s clear that summer is coming. We’ve moved from one timezone to another, from GMT to BST, Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time.
This year Easter coincided with the changing of the clocks, and there’s something fitting about that.1 Continue reading
I’ve just had the pleasure of (re)reading Perelandra with my wife – it’s her first time, but one of many times I’ve read it. It’s possibly my favourite C S Lewis novel (against strong competition!). I first read it back when I was in secondary school, and it made a deep and lasting impression on my thinking and imagination.
Perelandra sees Cambridge philologist Dr Elwin Ransom dispatched on a divine mission to Venus (or Perelandra as it is known, hence the title), where he must prevent the Green Lady, the Eve of that planet, from falling to temptation and casting that world into misery like our own. It’s the sequel to C. S. Lewis’s earlier science fiction novel Out of the Silent Planet, which describes how Ransom was kidnapped and taken to Mars, known as Malacandra, where he learned Old High Solar and discovered that the heavens are filled with angelic beings called eldila, and that Earth is under spiritual siege in the cosmos.
It’s a time of eager anticipation, as across the world people of all ages and backgrounds count down to a very special day. Yes, Star Wars: The Force Awakens is only three days away from release. J J Abrams, the hopes and fears of all the years (of Star Wars fans) are met in thee on Thursday night. Of course, it’s another season too, that of Advent, which is supposed to be a time of reflection and anticipation for Christ’s birth. But perhaps the two aren’t so different… Continue reading
I love Pixar’s films. Their most recent movie Inside Out was another story that combined fun characters, a clever concept, and emotional resonance. While some of their films are relatively forgettable (sorry Cars), their batting average is incredible with the likes of the Toy Story trilogy, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, Wall-E and Up among my all-time favourite movies. But as someone who enjoys both receiving and creating stories, I’m fascinated to know how do they maintain such a generally high standard of storytelling? Continue reading
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review.
The latest in the Questions Christians Ask series, Mark Meynell sketches out a solid introduction to basic Christian beliefs about humanity. Its brevity is both it’s biggest strength and weakness. It is accessible and easily digested in an hour or two. It’s probably most helpful for younger or newer Christians – more established Christians might find it a bit basic, and it assumes a lot that a non-Christian might want to argue.
It’s weakness is that the Questions Christians Ask format works best with a clear and specific question, but “what makes us human?” is a massive and broad topic. It touches on big questions such as gender and sanctity of life without room to develop its implications. Some suggestions for further reading might have helped, especially since a book of this length can’t be much more than an introduction to larger topics.
But given the limitations of tackling such a big question in under a hundred pages, if you’re looking for a pithy summary of the Bible’s teaching on what it means to be human, this is a good and helpful book.
Waterstones’ has reported that their sales of Kindle devices were down this Christmas, while the rest of their sales were up 5%, which has been widely reported along the following lines:
Coffin For a Kindle: The eBook Market is Dying in the UK
Kindle loses ground as demand for physical books grows
Kindle sales have ‘disappeared’, says UK’s largest book retailer
Are ebooks declining? No. These misleading headlines all show either a lack of comprehension or an anti-ebook agenda. If a market is dying, it’s dedicated ereaders, not ebooks, and those are far from the same thing. Continue reading
“Cowards live for the sake of living, but for heroes, life is a weapon, a thing to be spent, a gift to be given to the weak and the lost and the weary, even to the foolish and the cowardly”
I’ve just finished reading Empire of Bones by N D Wilson, the third and probably the best yet in the Ashtown Burials series. The series is a children’s contemporary fantasy of high adventure and drama, drawing on myth and history in a contemporary America, with echoes of Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and C S Lewis.
The quote above captures the dual sense of danger and heroism that runs through the book. Wilson writes from a robustly Christian worldview without being the slightest bit clunky or didactic. He can really turn a phrase and keep you turning the pages.
I had the pleasure of meeting Nate Wilson at the premiere of his short film The Hound of Heaven at the Raindance film festival last autumn, and got my copy of The Dragon’s Tooth, the first in the series, signed, along with his non-fiction book Death by Living, a powerful meditation on living and dying well. He’s also working on the script of a film adaptation of C S Lewis’s The Great Divorce, which I’m eager to see!