Thursday, January 11, 2007

A Pagan's Nightmare

A Pagan's Nighmare by Ray Blackston is a clever tale-within-a-tale. Larry Hutch is trying to sell his latest manuscript about a guy named Lanny who finds himself one of the last pagans on Earth. His agent loves the story (and the fact that his commission from the sale will boost his finances), but his Southern Baptist wife wants him to have nothing to do with something so sacrilegious. Meanwhile, Larry's trying to figure out how to tell the girl he likes that he based the heroine of his story on her.

But the primary focus of this nested tale is Lanny's adventures trying to find his girlfriend in a world of inflated prices for nonChristians, McScriptures, and sanitized music lyrics.

Having loved Blackston's hilarious Flabbergasted trilogy, I came to A Pagan's Nightmare prepared to laugh out loud. Unfortunately, I only giggled under my breath a bit. It just didn't strike me as funny. Not because I was offended (growing up in Baptist churches, I was the one laughing when a guy classified CCM as "charismatic music") . . . I don't know why. Perhaps the whole thing felt too surreal to be humorous. I wonder if that would have changed if Lanny's story was the only one. Perhaps the hype led to expectations that were deflated - not only do you have the "endorsements" on the back (which were perhaps the funniest part of the book, for example, "RIVETING! Gripping!! FABULOUS!!! Exclamation Points!!!!!!!" -- Today's Religious Fanatic), but Agent Orange's proclamation of the book as a "double bencher," a book you read with a flashlight in bed to finish. This was all before I read the first page of Lanny's story.

It's daring, yes, to poke fun at the Christian subculture. But we already have a Christian parody band sanitizing popular songs, and TestaMints instead of McScriptures. While Blackston's book does go to creative extremes, it falls flat, leaving readers with few characters to root for and a plot that doesn't allow for a "suspension of disbelief."

I'm still going to grab the next Blackston novel when it comes out. But if it's called My Big Fat Orbiting Cheeseball, I'm reading a chapter or two before I lay down my cash. And if that excerpt doesn't make me laugh, I'm leaving it on the shelf.


Clair said...

I wasn't a huge fan of A Pagan's Nightmare either, and hope that Blackston considers writing more books a long the lines of his first three.

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