Tuesday 14 March 2023

Novel Review and Christian Redemptive Fiction Award: Haighs Flat by Colin Williams.

Haighs Flat.

Something is lurking in the Australian bush – something terrifying. From the myths and legends of the indigenous people of Australia, from the stories they told around the fire at night comes a creature so horrifying they called it “Banib”- in our language it means “Devil.”

When Bryan Morgan started investigating his brother’s disappearance little did he know the can of worms he would be opening. Town secrets that date back to the 1800s, still haunt people today.

Sara Whitney has only lived in Haighs Flat for three months having moved there to investigate the disappearance of her uncle. Why is it that no one even remembers her uncle living or working there?

Could these disappearances be connected? Murder, conspiracies, and secrets all are being covered up by the powers-that-wanna-be and those with the power will stop at nothing to keep their secret safe.

As each of the theories gets refuted, could it be that the ramblings of an old farmer be the only ones that make any sense? Could it even be scientifically plausible?

With the evidence given them, will Bryan and Sara run with the truth or run from it?

Perspective by Peter:

I really loved this story. It turned out better than any preconceived ideas I had about it. For a debut novelist, Williams has a well-constructed and engaging novel. It has a steady pace, one event builds on the next and all the story arcs are well-placed and further the plot, leading to a very satisfying ending.

There is a lot to like in this novel. A minor story arc of romance between the two main characters, Bryan and Sara. A mysterious ancient creature from Aboriginal lore, the town's secret relating to this creature, missing tourists and town's folk, corrupt police, business, politicians, and local council. How are all these tied together? And where did this creature come from? What is the connection between this creature, dinosaurs, and the Bible?

While reading this novel, I wondered if Williams was going to confirm what I was suspecting, that this creature was the banib (or bunyip in English) of Aboriginal lore that I grew up with in school. Turned out, I was correct. But Williams has tied this in with the Bible and dinosaurs. May not sound feasible or plausible to some, but once you study the Bible and its related topics, it does make sense. Williams does a great job of this as well. He seems to have quite the talent in this regard.

Williams shines in explaining Biblical theology of the story arcs and themes. He has depicted the spiritual aspects of this novel very well and it brings the Bible to life and confirms that it supports science and not what secular society wants to hear, that science disproves the Bible. I applaud him for this. I continue this applause with his presenting the Gospel just as it is in the Bible, with no holes barred and even the inclusion of prayer. Now prayer was not just mentioned as being offered by the Christian characters but said in its entirety. So many times, Christian authors get criticised by Christian readers for including the actual prayer as they find it detracting from the story and pace, but I find this a sad indictment of them as all the author is doing is depicting realistically what the Christian life is. For a Christian fiction story such as this, so it should be. Williams shows how Christianity and a relationship with God should be and can be in the life of the Christian. 

Williams also discusses why some topics are not discussed in Church and how this then leads to confusion, disillusionment, and a stronghold of disbelief in the Christian or the secular person and how they can develop a distorted view of Christianity and the Bible. No wonder there are so many divisions among Believers alike! I remember being cautioned by an elder of the church I was attending if I continued to discuss a topic relating to Genesis 6: 4 concerning the subject of the Nephilim! If it is in the Bible, why cannot it be discussed? Hasn't stopped me though! 

Some of what I have outlined here can be found in Williams' blog on his website. I add it here to support my impressions of the novel: 

The idea of Haighs Flat came to me back in 2018 when I was seriously contemplating writing my first novel. Where did the name Haighs Flat come from? That I cannot answer you, it just came to me as a name for a typical country town, and thankfully there is no town of the same name that I am aware of.

The next thing I had to do was paint a picture of the town in my head. In order to have the story make sense, I had to be aware of directions, travelling and have a general layout in my head something of what the town would look like - and yes, it is loosely based on an existing town in the North-West of New South Wales.

What I wanted for the book was something uniquely Australian. Something that not only Australians will relate to, but something that will attract the attention of international readers as well, hence the culprit in the story is pulled out of an Aboriginal legend that may or may not have had an element of truth about it.
Being a Christian, and a creationist at that, I believe that the earth is much younger than the majority of the world believes. I also believe in the creation account as described in Genesis, thus I believe that dinosaurs existed alongside of people.

In chapter ten of my novel, the question is asked: "We read in the Bible of animals which we can interpret as being dinosaurs, existing alongside of people, but why do we not see this in other texts from the past?”

Hopefully I have answered this question in this book by explaining that there are many evidences of dinosaurs having lived along side of people. While this book is fictional, I have tried to keep things historically accurate - especially where it relates to Biblical issues.

As far as the book goes, chapter ten, which is in a Bible Study setting, would be my favourite chapter. I picked up my pen at around 9 o'clock in the morning and didn't put it down again until the early hours of the next morning, stopping only for meal breaks, and doing a bit of research. The whole chapter just flowed out of my pen and I couldn't stop until it was over.
I totally agree with him about Chapter 10. This is where I mentioned that Williams shines in  Biblical theology and that he links it all back to the book of Genesis. The whole basis of Christianity is found in Genesis, which is the foundation of what we believe and why. In doing so, Williams does touch on Apologetics as well. 

This novel would be a great instrument for a reader who is not a Christian but has questions about Christianity and those mentioned in this novel. Williams gives a comprehensive account of the answers to these questions. I did not find it preachy (another criticism of Christian fiction) but very relevant to the entire story arc of the novel. Williams does not water down the Gospel or any other Biblical account relating to the themes in this novel. 

This novel is an example of what Christian fiction should be for the reader and what I state in the Why Christian Fiction tab in this blog: 
  • it has entertained me immensely,
  • it has encouraged my walk with God,
  • 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 does not encourage worship of the created (eg angels) instead of the Creator (God).
Williams succeeds well in this novel. I understand that his next novel is a sequel to Haighs Flat in that it deals with the continuation of the relationship between Bryan and Sara. We can expect this in 2024. I look forward to this immensely. Williams has found his niche in life as a Christian novelist and one that I encourage readers to follow and support. 

I highly recommend this novel. 

The three ratings below are based on my discernment:

World Building 5/5

Characters 5/5

Story 5/5

Overall Rating: 5/5

The classification below is based on the booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland:

Spiritual Level 4: Redemptive Fiction


Spiritually, based on my review and on the following reference booklet, A Spiritual System for Rating Books by David Bergsland,  Haighs Flat contains the criteria of what constitutes Christian Redemptive Fiction outlined in this booklet: 

In the more realistic scenarios, the new believers give their live to serve the Lord. (Romana 12: 1-3). They can offer a realistic look at the daily walk of faith for a new believer. There is a clear Messiah who died for our sins. Through repentance and baptism, a person is forgiven and cleansed, beginning a new life in the Kingdom of God. 

The truly excellent books on this level share these truths easily, without pretension, in common human relationships. They recognise that most people do not carry on conversation by quoting scripture at each other. They cover the arguments pro and con in natural dialog-exchanged in the way we actually talk to one another. 

The leave it to the person to decide about Jesus, recognizing that you cannot talk anyone into salvation. Only the Holy Spirit can do that. The only source of guidance is scripture, with occasional visits from angles and the like. God speaks though the Bible primarily - at this redemptive level. 

Though the presence of the Lord is visible in these books, He may  not be the center of the story. Characters are benefitted and blessed by His presence in their lives. But salvation is the goal and result. Discipleship and spiritual growth are secondary as salvation provides everything needed by the characters. Growth is found in reading the secrdipture and memorizing key verses. 

The better LEVEL FOUR books have mature elders. There may be pastors, evangelists, and so on. these men and women disciple the new believers. 

It is therefore bestowed upon Colin Williams the, 

Reality Calling Christian Redemptive Fiction Award

Congratulations, Colin!

If you would like to investigate this novel further, it can be found on the following platforms for the Ebook format:

Readers and reviews are an author’s best asset, so I encourage any reader, to consider reading Haighs Flat and submit a review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest (or any other social media you subscribe to).

Reviews help promote an author’s novel to potential readers and encourage the author to keep writing. Reviews also help get the author’s message (and God’s message) to the reader, whether Christian or not, who may need encouragement and support in their lives while being entertained by the story.

Please note: As an Amazon Associate, I am required to disclose that book cover images or titles of novels in this post are paid links if they are linked to Amazon and result in a sale.

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