From Publishers Weekly
There are disappointingly few good SF novels for the Christian market, and Hancock's intense debut is an excellent though edgy contribution to the genre. Callie Hayes is a frustrated artist with a colorless life; she earns minimum wage raising rats for laboratory use. When she volunteers for a seemingly harmless psychology experiment, she's unexpectedly thrown into a frightening and alien world. The narrative is a loose allegory of the Christian life: provided with a "field manual" (the Bible), Callie must navigate the "Arena" to return home. She hooks up with Pierce Andrews, and together with a ragtag group, they battle the mutant "Trogs," who delight in raping, torturing and devouring their victims. However, Elhanu (Christ) soon appears in disguise to help. Some CBA readers may be disturbed by the novel's many rapes and attempted rapes, as well as its occasional stomach-turning descriptions (e.g., human bones with the marrow sucked out). Hancock's characters struggle believably with sexual feelings and passion, something that's often handled poorly or ignored in CBA fiction. Characters are multidimensional, although one borders on caricature (SF 's typical buxom, long-legged, weapon-brandishing blonde), and the sporadic Scripture verses seem out of place. To her credit, Hancock admirably dashes most of the reader's preconceptions about the plot as the story progresses through a series of twists, turns and well-paced developments. If this book is any indication, the future should be bright for this promising novelist.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Callie Hayes grudgingly agrees to participate in a psychology study as moral support for a friend. However, frightened by the examiners' secrecy and evasiveness (one vanishes before her eyes), she tries to escape but finds herself cast into the Arena, a testing ground for participants of the study. Armed with only a guidebook and minimal supplies, she is soon forced to trust the enigmatic Pierce, a man who claims to have spent the past five years in the Arena. As Callie journeys toward the Gate, supposedly her ticket out, she learns more about the mysterious Benefactor conducting the test and uses her developing faith in him to find the way home. However, this path is laid with false trails, traps, and false messiahs eager to destroy Callie and the friends she makes along the way. Hancock's first novel is an allegorical blend of fantasy and sf depicting the tests a soul faces that strengthen or destroy belief in God. Hints of the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max surface, along with the sense of climbing through the wardrobe into C.S. Lewis's allegorical Narnia. A classic in the making for the modern era, with appeal for fans of Lewis and Kathy Tyers ("Firebird Trilogy"), this is required for all collections.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.