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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 debut author's novels or those author's who have not had many reviews thus providing them much needed encouragement 
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Saturday, 17 January 2015

S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy by Kevin M. Kraft

 S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy 


Satariel Grigori is a devil. No, he's THE Devil, and he wants to repent and return to his Father in Heaven. But can he? Is it even feasible? The answer may lie in one unconventional preacher at the verge of losing his church. And Satariel, known as "S" to those closest to him, has his work cut out for him in, convincing Thomas of his identity and convincing him to act as his advocate before GOD, all the while concealing his plans to defect from the other Grigori brother, those angels who fell with him long ago, who would most certainly take exception to this. Deadly exception. For while Satariel might have once been the highest angel, that does not presuppose him to be the most powerful. S's change of heart could spell his doom, as well as that of Reverend Abernathy and his family.

The Guru's Review: 

This is the second novel of Kraft's that I have read. MOMO being the first. I read this one for three reasons, I loved MOMO and wanted more of this author, he writes in the edgy speculative Christian fiction genre which I love, and S is by its description, one interesting and potentially controversial subject matter and one that I guess very few authors would dare to play with in Christian fiction. 

I guess anther reason was that I wanted to see how Kraft would treat this controversial subject of Satan being repentant of his sin and wanting to be forgiven and would God forgive him? 

Pondering about this, led me to consider that this could be a difficult novel to construct. With this controversial/questionable topic as the main thrust of the novel, the author would have to keep the reader's attention all the way through as the last thing an author needs here is to loose the reader before they have discovered where this topic is going and have lost the motivation to read more to find out. Kraft succeeds in keeping the reader focussed and wanting to turn the page to do just that, find out more and how is this controversy going to be handled by this author.

Kraft has obviously researched this novel well and this shows in his depiction of the fallen angels; physically strong, able to morph into human form, disappear and reappear at will, influence or tempt people's will, and be masters at deception. One aspect of this research that I am glad he included is the doctrine of being healed by a fallen angel comes with the price of bondage. Depicting the truth of demonology such as described herein adds credibility to this novel. 

I must confess, I did think during the course of reading this novel, that I wish Kraft had depicted Sateriel (Ess) with more depth in his arrogance, evilness and deceptive, fallen nature, but then I remembered that he had addressed this in the recent interview I conducted with him concerning this novel, as he states, 
....while many might take exception to making Satan a sympathetic character, I would remind them that this is a fantasy, hence the subtitle: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy.
and this gave me some consolation as I knew then that this depiction was there for a specific reason and not due to the author showing poor character development from flawed/poor writing skills, all of which Kraft does not suffer from, quite the opposite in fact.  

Getting back to this novel being of a controversial topic, I feel it would be beneficial for readers if I were to include here Kraft's answer to my question relating to this in my recent interview with him:
Can you tell us a little about how your previous novel, S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy came about? I can foresee that this could be quite a controversial topic seeing that Jesus died for the human race only and that Hell was created initially for the satan and fallen angels. 
Controversy? Downright vitriol in some cases! Not many, but...some. S came about one day when my youngest daughter said, “Daddy, you know how the Bible says we’re supposed to love our enemies?” I said yeah. “Does that mean were supposed to love Satan too?” Just like me, her imagination is rich with why’s and what-ifs. The conversation grew from there. We discussed whether it was possible for the Devil to repent and how the Devil is a person and a personality and imagine what kind of personality he might have to do what he did and would God forgive him if he repented and should we pray for Satan’s repentance. We discussed the fact that Satan was an angel, one of the sons of God, and didn’t that imply that God loved them all as their Father and what about the angels who fell with Satan. We also talked about role and nature of sin and why do Christians STILL sin? Jesus died not just to save us from the curse of sin but the YOKE of sin. Why would we be instructed against sin, if it wasn’t possible for us to avoid it? And we discussed if is there ever a time when a believer has no choice but to sin...and couldn’t come up with any examples in the affirmative. We sin because we choose to go against our nature—our new nature—willingly and what does that make us? Also, what is the depth of God’s grace? How vast is it? 
Anyway, all these questions are addressed in S: A Contemporary Religious Fantasy. And while many might take exception to making Satan a sympathetic character, I would remind them that this is a fantasy, hence the subtitle. I’ve actually been amazed that, with only a couple exceptions, most people responded very, very, very enthusiastically and positively to S and re-examined their own lives accordingly. Odd as it may sound, it is surprisingly light, was fun to write and is probably my most profound work to-date. 

Personally, I am glad I had interviewed Kraft and got this answer before I read this novel as I may have been one to not accept so well the premise that Satan could be forgiven for his sin in this fantasy. It is always good to know the motivations of someone before the event despite this not always being the case. However, even without this explanation from the Kraft interview, I do feel a deeper explanation of why satan is repentant and wants forgiveness would have been more persuasive for me in understanding the author's reasoning and increase the credibility of this novel, which is strong despite this. 

Kraft has presented a very interesting argument through the main character, Thomas Abernathy, resulting in the release of his book, Sympathy for the Devil. Abernathy believes that the devil gets blamed for our sin while Christians take very little or no responsibility for their own actions, as Abernathy states, 
We are told not to sin. That is clear......In fact, I'll bet, if you thought of it, every sin you've committed since you were saved was not something you were forced to do, but something you simply chose to do..... which speaks more about the sinner than his capacity to avoid it. 
One of his parishioners then states, 
What about the devil? He makes us do wrong.
Abernathy replies, 
My Bible.....doesn't give the Devil credit for making anyone do anything. All he can do is tempt us, attempt to persuade us......I think Satan gets a bad rap. We blame him for our unfaithfulness, for our mistakes. We do something stupid and 'the devil made me do it! It's the Devil!' I believe that life is a series of choices-a single big choice, if you prefer, about how we will live in light of the existence of God, as the Bible represents Him. A sinless life is ours, if we decide to live it. Satan can't keep us from that which the Lord has already provided us, which is the ability, the license, to live free from the yoke of sin, all of us.
And then, later, when he is called to explain his controversial book to his Superiors, Bishop Landry states, 
You're telling people that Satan has nothing to do with us sinning. 
I am saying he can't make us sin, Tom replied. 
Then what of cases of demon possession? You can't believe people under such influence can control their actions. 
I'm talking about the believer. The unbeliever is not protected by the Lord, except at His pleasure. The believer is no longer subjected to either Satan or sin. That's why we are instructed to abstain from sin according to our new nature-that of Christ Himself......Does not the Bible teach that Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross for us? Do we not have the Holy Spirit to empower us to live the way Jesus instructed us? Are we not taught to abstain from sin? Is a sinful life compatible with Christian living?....You try to intimate that I'm heretical, when I'm merely teaching basic Bible, people. It isn't arrogance or pride. It's that I'm simply correct-only because the Bible is correct. 
Are you implying, in your message, Tom, that sin is simply a matter of choice for the believer?
Yes, Tell me one time, since you were saved, that you were forced to sin. We don't sin because we have to. We sin because we simply choose to, in spite of the consequences sure to follow. 
Tom...... think of the bondage of guilt we would put our parishioners under by telling them they have within themselves the power to stop sinning.
Did you just hear yourself? That's the message of Jesus Christ...imagine how much more effectual the Body of Christ would be if they adapt to the fact that sin has no more dominion over us, that through the work of Jesus Christ, the shackles of sin are broken, and our new nature in Him gives us the ability to live just as Christ demonstrated we can. Imagine how we could strip power away from...Satan, by simply choosing the truth of the gospel and the freedom and power over sin Christ provides...I ask you..... And if the leaders in the church won't take seriously the Bible on the matter of sin, how in the world can we expect those who are lost to? 
Hmm, if I had read these snippets before the Kraft interview, there are a few questions I could have included about this and I bet Kraft's answers would have been very revealing or highlight that the above attitudes of the parishioners and clergy exist in churches today. I loved these snippets, as this was not only entertaining where it fitted in with the plot, but also reinforces biblical doctrine. This is why I expect Christian fiction to do for me as a reader: educate, edify and entertain. Kraft does this very well in this novel. 

It is also due to Kraft depicting Abernathy as strong in the Word and in his faith in the Lord that Sateriel chooses him to be his advocate before God,  a great example being where he says to Abernathy regarding his book, Sympathy for the Devil, 
You have managed to grasp a significant truth, not rarely if ever preached from the pulpit. And even when it is, it's never been done adequately enough so as to leave no room for excuses: that sin has no hold over the true believer....can you imagine the impact the Church would have, if everyone adopted that truth as his or her own? The Spirit of the Father would move across the face of this globe in ways you couldn't imagine. Such power! Such freedom. And not just for men, perhaps. 
Ess saw Thomas' gaze changed, soften just a bit with new understanding. Yes, you understand.  
However this choice of Abernathy takes a humorous backfire with one of Sateriel's fellow fallen angels, Pehel. He sets Abernathy up to fall to sexual sin but resists this temptation causing Pehel to be physically thrown from watching this "encounter" about to take place, and Pehel indignantly recounts to Sateriel,
He has proven most resistant. More than most.... I moved the pieces carefully. Created a situation whereby Abernathy and a woman he clearly finds alluring would be in a situation conducive to an act of impropriety....I needed to apply the lightest suggestion a tiny thought, for any man of flesh and blood to succumb to primal lust, completing his fall from grace...he resisted me.....and he resisted the temptation....the sheer force of it knocked me off the house! I fell flat on my gluteus maximus- I believe I've bruised my tailbone! I was delighted none of the other brothers witnessed my utter humiliation. Abernathy must die, High Brother, There's no trifling with this man....the Spirit is strong in him.  
The above is just one example where Kraft has successfully added some humour with Satariel's fallen brothers, Level (pronounced Lev-el) and Pehel amoungst their seriousness and devious, evil ways to tear the Abernathy family apart. I loved the way he has depicted them, each very different and one more devious than the other. I also loved the character of Mike and he is one loveable homeless man whose role I knew would be revealed in the second half and made me chuckle. Very clever, Kevin Kraft! 

This novel is very well put together with plot flow, characterisation and all the loose ends tied up very well and tight at the end, which I am not going to spoil here. The reader can make their mind up for themselves, but just remember, this is a fantasy novel, as Kraft states. I feel Kraft has achieved what he said in his interview, that, 
it is surprisingly light, was fun to write and is probably my most profound work to-date.
It was a fun, but serious novel to read and very entertaining. 

Strongly Recommended. 


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