Wednesday, December 1, 2010

War in Heaven by Charles Williams (1930)


Charles Williams wrote seven novels that encompass a sub-genre all their own. Some have called them “spiritual shockers,” but they would not be considered thrillers by today’s standards. Williams was a poet and a mystic and both of these occupations heavily influence his fiction. He ran in a special circle known as “the Inklings.” All of that makes the reading of these novels a worthwhile pursuit—while the special content and perspective the novels offer alone would make their reading worthy as well.

War in Heaven, his first novel, is also perhaps his most accessible. At times it masquerades as a normal mystery novel involving the pursuit of the Holy Grail. It is far better written than say—The Da Vinci Code—and a thousand times deeper. There is murder, intrigue, high speed chases and black magic; but also theological pondering and psychological exploration.

Admittedly, most readers with less than a university education will have a hard time understanding what is going on at times, and those with that education will occasionally find themselves rereading paragraphs to be sure that they did. Not all the insights and views expressed are necessarily Biblical, good, or even well thought out—but the majority are great and serve to put the reader into another way of seeing the world—that is in almost every instance a good thing.

When I first read this novel shortly after my undergrad, I found the Archdeacon (arguably the main hero of the book) a bit too inactive and not an evangelically strong enough Christian for my taste. Now, years later, I find him wise. It must also be noted that the further one progresses in the action, the more obtuse the story becomes and the final chapter is a bit disappointing. The journey to get there, however, is fulfilling.

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