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Title: The Color of Magic (The Discworld Series)
Author: Terry Pratchett
Year Published: 1983
Pages: 207

In The Color of Magic (or The Colour of Magic as it’s spelled in its native Britain), Terry Pratchett takes you to the edge of the world—and beyond! And on Discworld where this book and the thirty-seven books in the series (the very prolific!) Pratchett has written since it are set, there really is an edge of the world. Discworld is a flat disc that rests upon the shoulders of four elephants whom are standing upon a giant turtle.

In addition to spawning a long-running fantasy series, The Color of Magic was first published twenty-seven years ago and remains in print to this day. If you ask me, that qualifies it as a bona fide classic. Pratchett is a creative genius—and that is not a title I use lightly. For comparison, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis, and George Orwell (coincidentally, also all British) are the other writers I give that title to.

The plot—insurance fraud—is not one—if you’re familiar with fantasy literature—you’d expect to find in a fantasy novel, but it fits perfectly in the inventive universe Pratchett has created. Twoflower is a tourist from another part of Discworld. Insurance is a common concept where he comes from but an entirely new idea to the pub owner he introduces it to. After being sold an “inn-sewer-ants-polly-sea,” the pub owner promptly burns down his pub—and consequently the entire town—in order to immediately collect on his newly purchased policy.

Twoflower and his tour guide, the wizard Rincewind, subsequently go on the run. Rincewind is an incompetent wizard who doesn’t know magic (okay, he knows one spell, but he can’t use it). My favorite character is one who doesn’t even have any spoken dialogue, The Luggage. It is a trunk made of sapient pearwood which Twoflower brought with (or followed) him. Pratchett describes it as a trunk with hundreds of little legs with which it uses to follow its master. And it will follow its master everywhere. Rincewind says that if you die, at least you will have clean socks in heaven.

At one point in the story, The Luggage gets separated from Twoflower; The Luggage remains on a pirate ship while Twoflower and Rincewind escape. Bits and pieces of The Luggage’s story are interspersed with Twoflower and Rincewind’s continuing tale. The Luggage went on a murderous rampage in which it ate several pirates and forced several others overboard:

The captain was not quite certain. The Thing looked like an ordinary sea chest. A bit larger than usual, maybe, but not suspiciously so. But while it sometimes seemed to contain things like old socks and miscellaneous luggage, at other times—and he shuddered—it seemed to be, seemed to be, seemed to have… He tried not to think about it. It was just that the men who had been drowned overboard had probably been more fortunate than those it had caught. He tried not to think about it. There had been teeth, teeth like white wooden gravestones, and a tongue red as mahogany… (160-161)

The captain ordered the ship abandoned and burned. It sank in an area of the sea “that was so black, so deep and so reputedly evil that even the krakens went there fearfully, and in pairs” (176). As it was sinking, a sea monster swallowed the ship in one mouthful. The hideous monster was found later dead and beached with an expression of horror on its face. Got to love The Luggage! Pratchett describes it thus in another beautifully descriptive passage:

[A] perfectly ordinary, if somewhat large, wooden chest…rose up on dozens of what could only be legs and turned to face the Arch-Astronomer. A perfectly ordinary if somewhat large wooden chest does not, of course, have a face with which to face, but this one was quite definitely facing. In precisely the same way as he understood that, the Arch-astronomer [sic] was also horribly aware that this perfectly normal box was in some indescribable way narrowing its eyes. (200-201)

Pratchett divides the entire book into only four large chapters, so if like me you try to reach the end of a chapter whenever you have to take a break from reading, it is unlikely you will be able to do so. Much of Pratchett’s humor stems from a mastery and manipulation of language. The Discworld universe is polytheistic, and at one point, Rincewind exclaims, “We are going over the Edge godsdammit!” They encounter dragon riders whose unpronounceable names such contain punctuation (e.g. K!sdra). Pratchett is as great a humorist as Douglas Adams, but he is the far greater storyteller.

Title: No Wonder They Call Him the Savior
Author: Robert Hudson
Year Published: 1986
Pages: 207

Max Lucado is not the type of author whom I typically read. He writes inspirational non-fiction while I normally read more technical non-fiction. I’m much more at home with a biography of Karl Barth, a theological monograph like Terence E. Freitheim’s The Suffering of God, or a Christian classic like Augustine’s Confessions. I decided to start reading Lucado to find out why his books sell millions of copies but also to broaden my horizons. Because of my obsessive compulsive tendencies, I’m reading through his bibliography in chronological order of how it was published. I read and enjoyed his first book On the Anvil (later retitled Shaped by God) a few months ago. Published in 1986, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior was his second book.

No Wonder They Call Him the Savior is an easy read, but the label inspirational is deceptive. Yes, it is “A Timeless Inspirational Classic” as the cover of Thomas Nelson’s The Bestseller Collection edition of the book declares, and it fits well within the inspirational genre. But it is also theological. You won’t find the word Christology in No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, but it is just as theological as N. T. Wright’s whopping, 741-page Jesus and the Victory of God. If you don’t count the section of study questions for each chapter at the back of the book, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior clocks in at just 136 pages. While Wright’s tome is meant for Biblical scholars and pastors, Lucado’s intended audience is the person in the pew.

Lucado teaches theology without you even realizing you are being taught theology. He subtly slips in exegesis: While discussing a verse in Mark, he adds, “Those who know these types of things say that the Gospel of Mark is really the transcribed notes and dictated thoughts of Peter” (71). While I have to read William F. Buckley, Jr. with a dictionary in one hand and Max Lucado can be read by an elementary school student, I would describe both authors as erudite. Lucado is obviously intelligent, but he avoids ever talking down to his audience.

“In your Bible of over a thousand pages,” Lucado asks, “what matters?” He answers his own question, “The part that matters is the cross” (xiii). The premise of No Wonder They Call Him the Savior is that it all comes back to Jesus Christ. As Christians, he is our inspiration, our sustainer, our Savior—our everything. “Any serious study of the Christian claim is, at its essence, a study of the cross” (xiv).

The book is divided into three parts. In the first part, “The Cross: Its Words,” each chapter is built around one of Jesus’ sayings on the cross. Each chapter in the second part, “The Cross: Its Witnesses,” is built around one of the characters (e.g. one of the disciples or Pilate) in the passion narrative. The final part, “The Cross: Its Wisdom,” didn’t seem to have a unifying theme and seemed somewhat out of place in a book that had been so focused upon the passion narrative up until that point.

Lucado has a distinct style. His writing is lyrical. His frequent use of one-word sentences and even one-word paragraphs is effective and gives his prose a rhythm usually found only in poetry. Authors who imitate his style (younger writers may actually be imitating Rob Bell) are less effective. I’ve seen several instances in periodicals where authors have tried to throw in one-word sentences and paragraphs, and their articles just sound choppy. I actually liked what Rob Bell had to say in Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, but I found his choppy sentences to be annoying.

Even Lucado can take it too far at times. One chapter was the passion story told solely with one-word sentences:

Stirring. Parade. Crowd. Swell. Romans. Pilate. Toga. Annoyed. Nervous. Officers. Tunics. Spears. Silence. “Charge?” “Blasphemy.” Indifference. Ignore. (Wife. Dream.) Worry. Interview. Lips. Pain. Determined. “King?” “Heaven.” “Truth.” “Truth?” Sarcasm. (Fear.) “Innocent!” Roar. Voices. “Galilean!” “Galilee?” “Herod.” (87-88)

This would have been fine as an introduction or attention-getting illustration, but the above paragraph was just one in an entire chapter written exactly the same way. Thankfully, like most of Lucado’s chapters, it was only three pages long. The average chapter in the book was three to four pages. The book seems tailor-made (especially with the large section of study questions at the back) for use in a small group or Bible study. With its thirty-three chapters, you could easily read a chapter a day during your quiet time and use the book as a one-month devotional.

Lucado’s writing is also pastoral. It is meant to comfort and encourage the reader. He is writing for the person who is going through a death in the family, has recently lost her job, is experiencing pain, etc. and offers practical advice and guidance. He reminds the reader who is feeling lonely, “The most gut-wrenching cry of loneliness in history came not from a prisoner or a widow or a patient. It came from a hill, from a cross, from a Messiah” (26). This is not surprising since Lucado’s day job is as a pastor. It is not hard to imagine that the first part of the book was possibly adapted from a series of sermons on the sayings of Jesus on the cross.