Ted Dekker, Christian mystery/thriller/fantasy author, has published over 40 books in the last 15 years. (I've read 27 of them so far!) With 10 million copies sold worldwide, methinks this guy knows what he's doing.
First off, I can't tell you how much his novels have impacted me as a writer and as a person. Every single book is not one story, but two. First he arrests your attention with a gripping plot and fascinating characters--that's the surface story, and it's always strong enough to stand on its own.
But then partway through, you realize that a second story is unfolding beneath the first. I can't remember reading a Dekker book that didn't give me at least one "aha" moment. This underlying tale is the one that pulls you to a different vantage point, where you can rediscover something you've always known and find refreshment in the new angle. Or, more often than not, it's the tale that hits your heart like a train, blasting apart some piece of your world and leaving you to sort through the fragments and put them back together the way they were meant to be.
Yes. His books have been that life-changing. Some have even gone so far as to impact how I think, and I find myself using some of his images and terms in the way I relate to God, myself, and the world.
See, Dekker is anything but conventional. If you're expecting one of his books to fit a certain mold, he simply walks right past it and shows you something else. At times, that 'something else' is downright strange, I'll admit. Boneman's Daughters kept me up at night. When my dad and I went through a bedtime stories kick a few years back--for old time's sake, you understand--House, coauthored with Frank Peretti, had a similar effect on me. Showdown, among others, left me looking a bit like this.
And shall we just say that I occasionally wonder about Dekker's sanity, because of the disconcerting depth of his psychotic characters. Just kidding . . . sort of. ;)
If you're wondering at this point if the strangeness is worth picking up a Dekker book, I say "yes" and "maybe" at the same time. They're not for the faint of heart; many of them contain dark portions. But if you're willing to step into a vivid, wild adventure, do. Because the darkness serves a purpose. In this interview*, Ted says, "All of my stories take someone through a dark valley . . . to discover the light beyond." All of his characters come to the end of themselves, to a place of surrender. And it is there they find truth.
There is always light at the end, and it shines far more gloriously than it would have without the valley journey.
*I only watched the first half of this interview, because the second half dealt with books I haven't read yet. Supposedly there are no spoilers, but I'm not risking it! Anyway, the first half was really good.
So. Recommendations? I'm glad you asked! I first read the Circle Series (Black, Red, White, and Green, which is Book 0 and can actually be read first or last). I think it's a great starting point. Fantasy/real world crossover, beautiful allegory, thrilling plot, devious bad guys. If you enjoy those four books, there are other series connected to this one, mainly: The Paradise Novels (Showdown, Sinner, and Saint); and the YA series called The Lost Books (Chosen, Infidel, Renegade, Chaos, Lunatic, and Elyon--you'll notice the beginning letters spell circle). I've found some hidden connections to this storyworld in other novels as well, but these are the main books.
Another series I highly recommend is one he coauthored with Tosca Lee: the Books of Mortals trilogy. Dystopian with a medieval fantasy flavor, more stunning allegory, and a flat-out amazing premise. Basically, no one feels any emotion except for fear, which is deemed the only emotion necessary to survival. Of course there's a tantalizing "until . . ." tacked onto that, because certain characters stumble upon a means to reawaken themselves and--that's all I'll say for now. Seriously. Go read them now.
If an entire series is too daunting to get into, he's written a number of excellent standalones. Thr3e is mind-blowing.
I'd say his books are normally upper YA to adult, so if you're younger than 16, tread with caution. (If I remember correctly, I read Black when I was 14 or 15, which seems quite young to me now.)
Tell me, questers: have you read any Dekker? What did you think? Any favorites, or is his style just not for you? If you haven't read anything of his yet, feel free to ask questions! There's nothing a bookworm likes better than to share the wealth of yummy tomes with her fellow bookworms.