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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Sunday, 5 October 2014

Angel War by Philip Dodd

 
Angel War by Philip Dodd


From an early age, Azel, the Prince of the White Castle of the Angels of Light, plans what he calls his great rebellion against the Father. After his self transformation into a four legged, scaled beast, he names himself the Dragon. At the head of his rebel angel army and his dragon flocks, he brings war to the angel lands. His intention is to dethrone the Father and rule in his place. Khem, the Child of the White Mountain, vows upon his Silver Sword to be his slayer. The lonely, perilous path of the dragonslayer, he takes. At its end, he stands alone, to challenge the Father's foe to combat.




The Guru's Review:

I have read a few novels that describe the war in heaven concerning the fall of
Lucifer (satan) and a third of the angels, but none like this one. Angel War is very unique from its plot, to its description of the angels, their order, their role and even the inclusion of spaceships and other technology.

I understand this is Dodd's first novel and it took him 26 years to write, having started it in 1986 when he was 34 and finished it in 2012 at age 60. Go here for more on Phillip's journey to published author. I can see where his degree in English Literature has benefitted his writing and story development. He writes well, even as he describes it in the aforementioned interview with Donovan M Neal:
I write simple, straightforward prose. I try to make it flow with no snag in its path and to sound close to poetry when I can.

I would totally agree with this. His narrative reads well and flows well. An evenly consistent pace. This is one of the strengths of this novel. Another strength is his fascination with Revelation Chapter 6 which forms the basis of this novel,
My book, Angel War, was inspired by Chapter Six of the Book of Revelation, which speaks of the war in heaven, fought between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels. The Bible only says that the war happened, but not why, so I decided to write my own version of the events of the war and its aftermath. My story is essentially the biography of Azel, the Prince of the White Castle of the Angels of Light, the one who begins the war in heaven and who later becomes known on Earth as Lucifer, the Devil, Satan. 
When I first read Chapter Six of the Book of Revelation, when I was a fifteen year old schoolboy,  I was astounded by the idea of there being a war in heaven, which led me to an interest in angels in The Bible, literature, painting and sculpture, and finally to begin to write, in 1986, when I was thirty four, what became Angel War.  My book could be called a work of fantasy fiction, rooted in The Bible. I think it would appeal to Bible readers and those who like to read fantasy fiction.

Dodd has used poetic licence and his imagination extensively in this novel, creating a wondrous world of the angels and of the Father and their lands (Heaven). Very descriptive and hierarchical than any I have read before.

From this point on, I must state that I do not want this review to be one where I tear Dodd's novel apart and I loathe being critical in any review, but if I am going to write a review it is of no benefit if I am not honest.  I state in this review blog that I expect from Christian fiction that,
  • it has not deviated from known biblical doctrine, and it will not, I believe, lead a non believer astray or promote false doctrine, 
  • it honours God, 
It is from here on in, that I feel Dodd's use of poetic licence in some his plot and character developments has deviated from biblical doctrine, promotes false doctrine and does not honour God. For me, using poetic licence is best used in Christian fiction where the bible is silent or leaves gaps and this fills in these gaps without compromising biblical doctrine, honors God and keeps the Christian reader within this biblical boundary. 

I have an issue with the Angels being married and producing offspring! Even more so having the Father and his Son, Elu (Jesus) married! As far as my reading and understanding of the Bible, there is no mention or implication of marriage and marital relations with or by angels in Heaven or by God Himself or Jesus.  I refer to the following bible verse, 

Matthew 22:30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. (HCSB)

Having the angels marry and bearing offspring to me is deviating from biblical doctrine and promoting false doctrine. 

Another aspect that I struggled with is the inclusion of spaceships for the angels to travel the vast distances of Heaven and to other planets including Earth. Yes, Dodd's angels have wings and can fly, but this seems to be only for shorter distances. Even the Father has His own spaceship called the Wheel! These spaceships are also used in the war that Azel (satan) starts. To me, the inclusion of this technology, while adding a science fiction element to this fantasy setting, does not fit. It is very out of place and lessens the credibility of the world of Heaven Dodd has created. 

From my perspective and understanding, God made us humans as finite beings, and as far as travel is concerned, we are limited in our ways of getting around. We can walk and run. We created artificial means such as cars, trains, boats, aircraft to cover longer distances, including space travel. I believe that angels in the supernatural world can travel vast distances, even to other planets, by the power given to them from God to be translated to whatever place He has sent them. This is within His power and sovereignty. Having Him need to use a spaceship to travel is restricting Him to boundaries and limitations similar to the finite being He made us, and one we know He does not have. To me, Dodd's depiction of this aspect of the Father does not make Him Omnipotent or Sovereign. I find this disappointing and does not honour God.

I struggled also with the Father giving the angels the ability to create other living beings, such as Azel's mother, Queen Merim, creating different cats, and Azel creating different types of dragons. As Christians, we grow up in Christianity (from whatever age we accept Christ) with the notion and seeing it in the Bible that God is the Creator and the angels, and all other living entities are the Created, and excluding the angels, the latter can only reproduce after own kind. I firmly believe that God is the Creator only and not His created. Having his Created create, takes away from His Sovereignty. 

The character of Azel, as he was created by The Father (God) and also after his self transformation into a four legged, scaled beast, is very well thought out and developed. This is one character that is self assured, self centred, self absorbed, and boastful in his thoughts and theology (which is very different from that of the Father's) and has no issue believing and acting that he is superior to all of the Father's creation and even of the Father Himself. The latter he has no respect for and regards Him as the Old Fool!

From this angle, he has portrayed the arrogance and pride of Azel just as strong as it seems satan (the serpent as he is called up and until 1 Chronicles 21:1, where the Bible states his name as satan) had and this needed to be done well to add credibility to Azel's motive and actions in this novel. Dodd has achieved this very successfully.

I have a few other issues where I was disappointed in Dodd's theology in this novel and how he has portrayed the Father. At the end of the war, the Father says,
Death and war now exist because of him, my son, Prince Azel, to my sorrow. He could have been one of my favourite sons. I gave him his gift, his seat, his castle, his angel house. I do not know why my son was born the way he was or why he rebelled against me.

This passage paints the Father as not Omniscient. I believe God knew that satan was going to rebel against him and his reasons why. Just like Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. This passage does not honour God or portray Him as He is as the God of the Bible. In the bible, it says that God knew us before we were born. I am sure he would have known his angels before He created them too. Again, this passage and the previous one places God on a lesser level that the God of the Bible being Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent.

Dodd also shows the Father as not being forgiving when He learns that the Dragon and his minions are not dead after the war,
Never forgive. Never forgive. Not until all of them who served my betrayer has been found and punished. Never forgive, he said, in a deep hard tone.
Upturn every stone, search down every hole, until you are certain that the last of them have perished, by my wrath, in my fire. Never forgive. Never forgive.

I find this passage very disturbing. This is something a human would say in response to being hurt and betrayed. We know of unforgiveness as part of our fallen, sinful nature and not part of our original nature before the sin of Adam and Eve, but I don't believe God is capable of this flaw. He is perfect, unforgiveness would not be found in His character. To suggest otherwise, as in this passage, again, does not honour Him and to me, undermines who He is. Even Jesus forgave us for our sins and encouraged us to forgive others.


Another issue I have with Dodd's theology is that when the serpent is tempting Eve with the fruit from the tree, it is a tree that satan planted and not the one that the Bible states was planted by God and warned by God to not eat. Even Eve in the Bible states this, but in this novel, Eve is not aware of the tree being there until identified to her by the serpent. Again, I find this a huge deviation from established bible doctrine.

This deviation continues when Eve tells the Father of eating of the tree and she feels she had done wrong but the Father tells her and Adam,
Rise, my children. Show me the tree. Do not be afraid. You have done nothing wrong.......I am not angry with you. My wrath is against the serpent and his master.

My first reaction here was that Adam and Eve have not sinned? So the doctrine of sin has been removed in this novel! How does this honour God?  So how then does Dodd account the coming of Jesus to Earth later in the novel? If sin has been removed from Dodd's narrative, then he does not explain or give a reason Jesus' mission to the human race later in the novel. The bible states that from Adam and Eve's action, they have sinned and were banished from the Garden of Eden. Even on this issue, the Father does not banish them but Eve suggests that they leave instead.

Too much poetic licence changing/twisting bible doctrine! From this point on, I was not interested in reading more. However, I decided to continue on to see if this deviation would stop or continue. I was being too hopeful as I found out. 

More deviation follows where the Bible states that Adam and Eve were the first humans created, but Dodd has a whole community of humans born with Adam and Eve living in the Garden of Eden,
Back to the hall in the middle of Eden, he led Adam and Eve. Once there, he gathered the tribe of his human children to him and told them what had happened to Adam and Eve and warned them about the serpent.

After this event, the Father states that he will protect them but Adam and Eve state to their community that they were leaving, to live outside Eden, in the wilderness. Eve states,
We see clear. We must go. We are fallen, no longer good enough to share the fruit and wine of Eden. Beyond our garden, there is a wilderness. There we will live, like bears, in a cave, or in a hut, built by our own hands. At least we will always be together...

and Adam states,
Do not follow us.....Only we ate the fruit from the tree planted by the Dragon's servants. We are not as we were, less, not greater...

Eve states,
don't you see? We were betrayed. Now we must go, to hide....Angels are higher than us. We are at their mercy.
But some of the tribe follow them. So from this point on the human race is not populated from Adam and Eve only but from the rest of the tribe too! 

Again, twisted biblical doctrine that is not credible for Christian fiction. With all the above examples it has now just fantasy fiction as Dodd describes. I find that it is loosely based on the Bible and not rooted in the Bible as Dodd states in the Donovan Neal interview mentioned at the beginning of this review. I cannot see how this would appeal to bible readers as he states it would in the same interview.

Despite this novel being well written, born of his fascination for Chapter Six of the Book of Revelation, a vivid and creative imagination, I find it disappointing from a Christian fiction point of view. To me it, 
  • conflicts with and undermines the bible and its doctrine,
  • dishonours God
  • has the potential to give the reader a misleading impression of what God and Christianity is.
I do not believe that Dodd set out deliberately to achieve the above, but in using poetic licence to
create my own version of the events of the war and its aftermath (and) create on the page my own versions of such people from The Bible as Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Judas, Peter, John, Mary and Joseph, Jesus and Mary Magdalene
he has redesigned and reinterpreted the biblical narrative, and this novel does not encourage, uplift, teach or inspire the Christian or non Christian reader alike. The sum of all this was that I did not enjoy it at all.

Mildly Recommended.

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