Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, July 16, 2010

So, Have YOU Been to Gan?

by Kerry Blair

When my father wasn’t working or sleeping he was reading. If he was awake and not reading, he was sitting on the back deck in the dark with his daughter. From the time I was very young until my father passed away--quite fittingly at the dawn of a new millennium--we often gazed up at the stars together, discussing life, the universe, and everything.

But mostly the universe.

My father was born three years before Buck Rogers. He learned to read about the time of the big bang in a literary genre fathered by H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and others. From the time I could read on, I watched him plow through the entire science fiction collections of both the Prescott and Mesa Public Libraries. Twice. (At least.) Although he had almost no use for personal possessions (like, say, an overcoat) he did manage to collect his weight in pulp novels -- all of which are still in my garage. I often swear to take them to Goodwill; sometimes I even get them as far as the trunk of my car before I turn around and haul them back. If I ever find the time and creativity, I would like to make a collage of the covers. Spaceships, aliens, strange new worlds . . . incredible art, mostly from the 30s through the 60s . . . I'd take it over an original Thomas Kinkade any day.

My father was the kindest, smartest, most interesting person in my world. Forget TV, and even books, I loved nothing more in the evenings before bed than fantasizing with him about the life we both knew simply must exist on other planets. For more than three decades, we’d point out stars and tell each other stories about what we imagined must go on out where no man has gone before. At first I was all about terrifying space monsters and magical moon princesses, but my dad insisted from the beginning that the people who live “out there” don’t differ much from the people who live here. When I joined the Church and shared with him Christ’s words about His other sheep from the Book of Mormon, my dad just nodded. He’d remembered that Plan all his life.

Most LDS people, in fact, know that Earth is not the only planet ever created. But how many of us actually talk about it? (Besides me, I mean.) The only thing more amazing than somebody publicly expounding upon the LDS view of outer space is somebody else writing a novel about it. Well, friends and neighbors, somebody has! Our own Daron D. Fraley, in fact. (I will forever be proud to have snagged him as a guest blogger before he becomes inter-galactically famous.) The book is The Thorn: Book One, The Chronicles of Gan.

Before I go on, I need to remind you that I almost never review books. Not anybody's. Anywhere. Ever. There are several reasons for this, but the most compelling is that I am simply no good at it. I freeze up whenever anybody asks me what one of my books is about. How can I then face the pressure of reducing someone else’s opus to a blithe two-paragraph synopsis and biopic theme analysis? (The only real master at literary review I know is Jennie Hansen, who is concise and insightful where others -- read: me -- tend toward that blithe thing I mentioned earlier. It’s one of her many, many gifts.) While Daron sent me a copy as a kindness, he didn’t ask for a review. He probably didn’t want one, knowing my skill at it, so I won’t surprise him — pleasantly or otherwise. But I will make a few personal observations. (Which are nothing at all like a review. Ask anybody.)

First off, I was immediately intrigued with the concept: Three tribes are at war on the planet Gan, unaware that the sign of Christ’s birth on an unknown world—Earth—is about to appear in the heavens. That’s heady stuff—and an idea I’ve loved ever since reading a Ray Bradbury short story in a similar vein. In fact, it’s something I’ve dinked around with myself for several years now. I’m glad at this point that I never finished. I never even approached Daron’s imagination, style, and touching message.

To my surprise, I was captivated from the first chapter. I like sci-fi, but I love historical fiction. The Thorn could be both. It reads like it could have happened in Zarahemla—had there been two suns and three moons. It has visionary men and epic battles; it explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, patriotism, treason, miracles, and loss of faith. (Any of that sound familiar to anybody else?) And it was so real! While I had a sneaking suspicion from his blog that Daron can write, I have to admit I didn't expect to get as caught up in the story as I did. At one point I actually turned down a page corner thinking, “This is a great scripture story. I'll read it to my Primary kids.” The telling part of this is that I remembered that I no longer teach Primary before I remembered I wasn’t reading a book based on scripture. (No comments on the brain cells, or lack thereof, please.)

No biopic theme interpretation to be found here. I will say instead that as I read I felt my testimony of faith, hope, and charity strengthened. On Gan, when all else failed and plans fell to ruin, these three principles remained -- even as they have and will everywhere, throughout eternity.

I'll conclude by confessing that I finished the first installment of The Chronicles of Gan with tears in my eyes. It was late evening. I looked out the window at the darkening sky and wished I could sit once more under the stars and share this book with my father.

That, my friends, is the highest praise I've ever given a novel.

Daron, did I remember to say “thank you”?

Visit Daron Fraley’s website HERE for a link to his blog and a scad of “real” reviews of The Thorn. Be sure to check out Angel’s Song, a companion short story to the first of the Chronicles.


At 7/16/2010 2:28 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...


Not only can I not fix the funky formatting, I can't get the first link to work. It's supposed to go to Amazon where you can purchase a copy of your very own. Do it. It's worth the search.

As for the formatting...see above. I've devoted more time to trying to remove extra spaces from paragraphs than anybody ever should so just forgive me the wasted space, okay? It's stuff like this that makes me swear to give up blogging forever.

At 7/16/2010 2:32 PM, Blogger Pat said...

Thanks for sharing your personal experiences.
Interesting concept for a book - funny, I've been contemplating our relationships to the stars a bit lately myself...
(Who cares about the format - your content is what matters, and it doesn't disappoint!)


At 7/16/2010 5:27 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I know I loved science fiction and fantasy when I was a kid: I remember not being able to get enough of a series of books about a boy inventor (came out in the 50's, can never remember the title or main character. Yes, I know, very helpful.) In high school, my best friend introduced me to Robert Heinlein, which he got from... his dad, who sounds a LOT like your dad. Can't recall seeing him at home without a book in his hand, usually a worn-out paperback.

I have to admit, this book you've read sounds like it has an interesting concept. On my vacation, I read my first LDS horror novel - I am not a serial killer, might as well try an LDS science fiction novel. =)

Is there anything I can do to prevent you from swearing off blogging forever?

At 7/16/2010 5:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a sci-fi person--my grandfather wouldn't allow my father to read innocent cowboy books like Zane Grey and my father was a bit that way with us reading "nonsense" books in our family, but I love the description of your relationship with your father as expressed in the blog. I'm sure Daron's book is well worth the read, but I think your father's ability to communicate with you is probably a study worth a good deal of thought also.


At 7/16/2010 5:29 PM, Blogger Sharon Cohen said...

Your review is exactly what I would have said - had I taken the time to do so! You have captured what I found so engaging and captivating about The Thorn. It is so real yet I know that it is NOT. I can get carried away in Gan like I have in so many rich and epic stories of heroes and love and war.

The only problem I had with reading The Thorn was the waiting now for the other books in the series. I made a promise to myself, long ago, to never ever suffer the anguish of waiting for the 2nd or later installments. I have kept that promise in books and television until The Thorn.

The story concluded well - I have not been left hanging. But I am ready to return to Gan.

At 7/16/2010 5:39 PM, Blogger Daron D. Fraley said...

Thank you SO MUCH, Kerry. You made my day.

At 7/16/2010 6:56 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Someday I am going to learn to write what I mean -- or at least read through things before I post them. In the meantime, I desperately need those of you who read this before 4 PM Arizona time to please re-read the fifth paragraph right now.

Done? Thank you! I feel much better. My brief mention of Jennie Hansen in the first version came out almost exactly opposite of the intent of my heart. It's better now, but I'm still kinda mortified.
Please forgive me, Jennie! You really are my hero.

At 7/21/2010 3:26 PM, Blogger RaShelle said...

Sounds like an amazing book. Thank you for sharing your review/personal observations. =D


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