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Forbidden, proof that Dekker's best days are behind him?
on October 11, 2011
I kept telling myself Ted Dekker's next book will be better than his last. I kept telling myself that he would not continue to pull the same shenanigans of old and thrust illogical interactions in unbelievable situations and yet again, use love as a gimmick. I kept telling myself that he is capable of writing a great story and that when I finished the book, I would be happy with what I just read. The truth of the matter was self-evident: Dekker's best days are well behind him.
Many spoilers follow.
So what exactly was wrong with the book? Though the book was not downright awful, it was bad enough for me to be happy that I finished it so I could move on to something more meaningful and enjoyable. Those are not details, so let me begin. The entire premise is destined for problems and was evident from the opening chapter when Rom did the illogical thing and went against everything he ever knew and trusted a crazy old man he only met seconds earlier. Many characters felt like rehashes of previous Dekker novels and one distinctive scene read like it was ripped straight from Green. In typical Dekker fashion, one person confesses their love in record time. Cities, countries and continents are given names in a cheap effort of creating a new world unlike any we have ever seen. I can appreciate the effort in creating a unique setting, but it all combined to make little sense. Brahmin, who are royalty, felt like vampire knock offs without the fangs, and by the end of the book, you still do not know why there are people who have translucent skin (Brahmin) and regular folk like us. Once the symbolism of the world being "walking corpses" was introduced, the reader is overloaded with the concept to the point of annoyance because of the way certain characters kept treating it as a physical death, not an emotional one.
A cryptic message written in Latin is decoded, giving some insight into the blood Rom is given in the book's opening chapter. Here's an excerpt:
I have a sample of purest blood of unknown origin marked only "TH," which proved resistant to the strain.
Readers of The Circle Series should immediately note the TH being Thomas Hunter, savior of humanity in the year 2010. Based on the timeline of when Chaos occurred in Dekker's Lost Books Series, Forbidden probably takes place in the year 2550, possibly closer to the year 2600. Would the man that saved humanity really be that unknown roughly 40 to 90 years after saving every person from certain death? Seems unlikely, but this is hardly a primary point of emphasizing the book's numerous problems.
Murder is illegal and security is overly lax (if not non-existent), yet there are well trained killers working for the Order who strike with deadly precision and leave a mess of evidence without making the slightest effort in covering their tracks. If this is the case, surely there would be rumors of such atrocities (since they exist to hunt down and destroy the Keepers) and would not be as unbelievable and unheard of as portrayed. The Order's alchemists are always conducting experiments (the details of which remain mostly vague), one of which is the ability to restore some emotions. Rom is able to sneak into these lairs in a disguise, yet despite the Order being aware of this trespass, several main characters successfully repeat this two more times using the same method. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice, shame on Dekker and Tosca. The icing on the cake was the book's terribly flat ending. I do not think the events leading up to the shocking moment could have been more monotonous and ill conceived. It is pretty clear not a lot of thought went into it because it truly plays out without much sense.
Ted Dekker has written some great novels. Unfortunately, I believe his last great novel was BoneMan's Daughters, which came out in 2008. Since then he has pumped out two books a year and each one progressively worse than the others, with an exception to Immanuel's Veins, which still remains tied as my most disliked Dekker book, along with Lunatic and Elyon. I do believe this book is the straw that broke the camel's back. I am a completionist at heart and there is only one book that I have stopped reading. I considered doing it again, but I can finish a book this long in two or three days, so I stuck with it, trying to enjoy the book but failing. Forbidden (The Book of Mortals) is the first book of a trilogy and while there are some decent parts, it suffers as a whole and I have no intention of reading the rest of the series. I can only suffer through so much whimsical, immediate love before I find myself clawing at my eyes to make it stop. If this is the first or one of the first Dekker books you have read, I strongly recommend sticking with his earlier works as they are, hands down, far better than anything he has put out recently.