February 7th is looming ever closer and, with it, a time of horrors (of the good kind, though) thanks to the newest installment in The Coming Evil Trilogy. But, today, I want to take this opportunity before the marketing blitz surrounding Enemies of the Cross takes hold, and talk about the Biblical Cyberpunk anthology I was recently involved in: Underground Rising, set in the world of Frank Creed’s Underground series.
The book came out back in November, but I wanted to give it some time before I posted the following.
I’m not going to call this a review, because I’m really not going to tell you what the stories are about, though they are all top-shelf stuff, people. If you’re not at least familiar with Frank Creed’s futuristic series, be prepared to be a little dumped-in-the-middle-of-things, but I think you’ll figure out your way as the stories progress.
What I am going to do is share with you my experience in reading this anthology for the first time. I submitted my story “Ex-Communicator” years ago for this project. I had no idea who else Frank had contacted about working in the anthology, I never read their stories, never even heard what they were about. In preparation for the mega-interview I conducted back in November, I asked Frank for an e-copy of the finished product, so I at least could review and see who my co-contributors were. I was initially surprised to see that some of the men and women I call friends in the Christian Fiction community were listed, so I knew that I was in good company. When I sat down to actually read the book…I had an experience.
Seeing my story featured first was an instant thrill, sure. I hadn’t read it since I submitted it and it read so good I was convinced someone else had wrote it :p It’s one of the finest things I’ve written, I believe. But then I turned the page and read the next story. Then the next. And something started turning in my mind. A thought, pulling itself together. I didn’t know what it was, so I went ahead and read the next story. That same thought, getting clearer, beginning to excite me. Read the next. My heart was pounding, that thought poking at my mind. I felt moved. Elated. I had to stand up and walk around for a bit, all of this feeling coming out of me. I read the next story and it suddenly dawned on me what I was seeing.
As I said, I knew some of these authors. I’d heard of most of the others. I knew, firsthand, that while we’re all Christians, we come from different denominations, different educations, different family lives, different political leanings, different countries. I’ve seen us leave comments on discussions about Christian Fiction and the nature of writing about our faith. We disagree. Sometimes we argue. But here, in this one little anthology, that’s all gone. There is a unity in this book that I can only begin to articulate. Here, in this book, we’ve rallied behind our leader into this tech-noir world of Sandmen and Neros—Frank Creed—and we’re telling stories about the church under persecution. About faith tested by fire. Some of the stories are slam-bang action, some are thoughtful accounts of simple believers trying to live under a government that would kill them for their beliefs. Each writer has brought his or her own voice, his or her own journey to this project—but we’re all telling the same universal story.
I was blown away when I realized this. You may not think it’s that big of a deal, but I’ve really struggled with Christian Fiction in the past. Not the "genre", itself, but all the division among those who write it. There are so many internet-based arguments on how to get “the message” out—or if we should even try to get one out at all. We argue over who’s right and who’s doing this or that better. It’s tiring. It’s discouraging.
But not in Underground Rising. This is the Body of Christ, working in unison. All unique, but unified to share stories of surviving when the world is against you. It reads like a family getting together for dinner, after many years apart. Everyone’s equal at the table, telling stories, sharing their troubles and their triumphs. Everyone gets a turn to speak, and, once they’re finished, we all sit and nod with meaningful tears in our eyes because we understand exactly what they mean because we’ve lived it too, we just didn’t know it.
This is a story about survivors, about soldiers, about heroes. They’re covered in mud, hiding in shadows, scraping for every meal, and hated by the world. Like the heroes of the Bible, these characters struggle with their doubts, bicker with one another, but ultimately love and forgive and turn heavenward for hope.
I’m sorry, but I think that, if you’re not a Christian, you’re just not going to be able to fully appreciate what this book represents. “For those who have ears, let them hear”. However, even if you’re not a Christian, I’d plead with you to read this. I believe this is us at our best. This is "Christian" Fiction at its best. It’s not about preaching, it’s about living. It’s about sharing our stories.
I can’t give Underground Rising a review, because it wasn’t a book to me. It was an experience that I lived through. I’m proud to stand in this anthology with my fellow authors—my brothers and sisters in Christ. They’ve encouraged me and given me a little more fire in my furnace to keep on keeping on in my own writing journey. For that, I thank all of you, guys, and I thank “the Boss”. I think He had something to do with this all along.
I encourage everyone to head over and check it out. Enjoy your weekend!