Christian dystopian fiction review: The Safe Lands by Jill Williamson
This is a series I’ve been half-heartedly waiting to finish for a long time. Because it is traditionally published by Zondervan, I was very suspect of the spiritual level of the books. In addition, for the same reason, they were ridiculously expensive. So, when they had a sale at the beginning of the month, I ho-hum, trudge, trudge, picked up books two and three in the series. I wish I could say I was pleasantly surprised—but I can’t. However, Jill Williamson is a good author
This is not as good as The Blood of Kings trilogy, but it is competent, professional writing. It seems to be more market-driven entertainment, but it’s a solid story.
Imagine the high life of the big cities taken to its ultimate end
Now you have the Safe lands. It’s a walled city left in the midst of the Colorado Rockies after the world is virtually destroyed by a runaway plague. If we have a strong dose of 1984 to add to the mix, the result is pretty close to the Safe lands. This is a culture of meaninglessness. The government keeps its people hopped up on drugs and an endless, amazing, constant entertainment, fashion, free sex, no children, material-excess party.
Of course, there’s a dark side, and therein lies the story. Here’s the blurb for the Captives, book one: “In a dystopian future, eighteen-year-old Levi returns from Denver City with his latest scavenged treasures and finds his village of Glenrock decimated, loved ones killed, and many–including his fiancée, Jem–taken captive. Now alone, Levi is determined to rescue what remains of his people, even if it means entering the Safe Lands, a walled city that seems anything but safe.
“Omar knows he betrayed his brother by sending him away, but helping the enforcers was necessary. Living off the land and clinging to an outdated religion holds his village back. The Safe Lands has protected people since the plague decimated the world generations ago … and its rulers have promised power and wealth beyond Omar’s dreams.
“Meanwhile, their brother Mason has been granted a position inside the Safe Lands, and may be able to use his captivity to save not only the people of his village, but also possibly find a cure for the virus that threatens everyone within the Safe Lands’ walls. Will Mason uncover the truth hidden behind the Safe Lands’ façade before it’s too late?”
Glenrock is one of a few villages living outside the walls of The Safe Lands. They are living in buccolic, organic, self-sufficient, hippydom. They are supposedly living the Christian ideal, but no one really remembers what that is or what it means. It’s become what America is dealing with: a safe, comfortable religion with no relationship to God and certainly no internally dwelling Holy spirit sent from the Savior. Omar blows it all open—seemingly bringing chaos and death.
The dystopian vision is compelling
The problem is that both the Safelanders and the outsiders are controlled by this vision without help and virtually hopeless in the world. They pray and sometimes God seemingly intervenes. The religious ones are supposedly the good guys. But, truly, they are as messed up as the party-hardy “beautiful people” inside the artificial world.
However, as mentioned, the writing is professional. The characters are interesting and the plot twists are “exciting”, if you can keep in mind that excitement is the Satanic substitute for joy. The story seems to drag a bit at times, but then my expectations are very different from the norm. For a non-believer, it’s probably pretty good, as the “religious” portions are carefully not offensive.
The spiritual level is mainline plus
There is a bit of a nod toward the evangelical persuasion, but this religion has no real power to transform lives—just a nebulous hope that this alien God will work things out if you trust Him. Once a person is brought within the fold, as it were, they are greatly troubled by the idea of killing someone. They become sexually pure—though this is a stated reality which is never really explored. But thinking back, I can’t remember a savior. So, I guess it’s more an Old Testament level. I don’t care enough to check.
With all the dystopian garbage, the books are a clean, safe, “Christian” read—modern CBA entertainment. But the Gospel is missing and the slight traces of the Good News are minimal. I guess they are a safe read for your kiddos, but the books are certainly not going to edify them. It’s entertainment without any real meaning—an interesting intellectual exploration of possibilities. But like most books of this dystopian ilk, the fact that the King is coming soon is completely ignored.
So, I’ll give it three stars and a word rating of “pablum”
It’s entertaining, safe, and intellectually stimulating. Spiritually, not so much…