Thursday, 11 August 2011

Ted Dekker - author and legend.

"An invisible cold hand reached out of the darkness and touched Janeal directly over her heart, all five fingers grazing her like feathers yet with the power of a force field." [p. 76]

SUCH a powerful line from a novel I am quickly falling in love with. Ted Dekker is by far one of the greatest authors I have ever come across. This bewitching line comes from one of Ted Dekker's newer creations, a book co-authored with Erin Healy and titled 'Burn'. The heroine of the story - or dare I say, hidden villain? - is a 17-year-old woman named Janeal Mikkado, who lives within a community of gypsies with her father Jason, her boyfriend Robert and best friend Katie. I was taken in quickly by the concept of gypsies anyway, but Dekker and Healy effectively cast Janeal as somewhat of an outcast - a bird trapped in a cage, longing to be free, if you will.

I admire the authors' ability to create such intriguing characters. Chapter 1 introduces you to Salazaar Sanso, a crafty man on the edge of a knife, wanting to escape imprisonment from the DEA for forging money and knowing Janeal's father Jason is planning on setting him up. He selects Janeal as his puppet to betray her father and community (which is taboo in the gypsy realm) and you begin to feel as though he knows her, knows of her selfish thoughts, her longing to leave, her wavering loyalties.

I won't spoil too much, but I am always astounded by Dekker's way of bringing the 'evil' of everyone's persona to the fore. He captures his characters in a way that often leaves me breathless - I feel as though, with his words describing his characters, he is seeing into my very soul and writing my innermost confessions on the page. I applaud his grasp of human nature and being; I believe he writes what other authors are afraid to expose. Where other authors might throw lust into their story, Dekker will throw lust and guilt, or lust and denial. His characters have layers that, frankly, I still spend time mulling about.

The other Ted Dekker novel I recently finished (and adore from cover to cover) is adequately titled 'The Bride Collector'. It tells the story of a deranged yet brilliant killer who suffers from an array of mental illnesses and the curse of an abusive childhood. He is haunted by his history and one memory of a woman who refused to be intimate with him, and therefore carefully plans his revenge (though he does not see it that way at first) for seven years after the fact. His belief is that he is God's messenger; unworthy of being a sacrifice himself, he must go out and take seven of God's most beautiful brides and send them to be with Him.

The most confusing part about the villain's character I felt was his name - Quinton Gauld. At first I thought - Quinton? What an odd choice for the villain's name. But as I read on I was suddenly struck by the innocence stemming from Quinton - he truly felt he was doing God's work, and thus 'Quinton' seemed fitting.

What I love about Dekker's characters is that, villain or not, you end up loving them. In the case of Quinton, you absolutely loathe him at the beginning. You cannot fathom how anyone would be so deluded and be able to murder women thinking you were doing God's work. But Dekker is somehow able to turn even the most vile sinner into someone you feel sorry for, despite using all your energy to try and hate them. At the end of 'The Bride Collector', all I could think was - "Please Quinton, can you just see the light? Please change your ways, you can be forgiven". It was ridiculous! Yet I adored it just the same.

Other than Quinton though, Dekker's other focus was on Paradise - a woman staying in a mental health center, plagued with her own demons and suffering from Schizophrenia and an assortment of phobias - one being her inability to leave the center and the comfort of its walls. She believes herself to be ugly, when truthfully she is beautiful, and fears men due to her past as well. She is the source of Quinton's determined mission, and the object of Special Agent Brad Raines' curiosity, and ultimately, his affection and love. It was amazing how Paradise's beauty began to emerge through Brad's blossoming love for her; she was beautiful all along and could not see it, and neither could Brad. But throughout the story both beauty and love became a realisation for both characters, and Dekker takes you on this journey with them, so you find yourself stunned that you never picked up on the magic and power that both changes and consumes the two as they discover more about each other.

If you do read this book, it will blow your mind. The artful way Dekker describes the other people in the mental health facility enables you to fall into their shoes; allows you to embrace their 'flaws' as fantastic personality traits, and truly sheds a new light on mental illness and how it is often misinterpreted and portrayed in a negative way. I found myself giddy with excitement every time our attention was drawn back to the center - Roudy, Andrea and Cass kept me laughing with their witty banter and crying with the hidden severity of their conditions. I found Dekker had written them in such a way that I could not possibly feel sorry for them, and if I met them (especially Roudy!) in reality I know I would have rushed to become friends with all three.

I have read many of Ted's novels, and own 3/4 of them with the intention of owning all someday (very soon!). I would love to be able to say to him, face-to-face - "Your novels have changed my life". It might sound cheesy and like something out of a movie, but truly, they have. When I first read 'Blink of an Eye', I felt rocked to my very core. Dekker's writing is so powerful in that novel, you find yourself swept in and carried away in the sea of his words. And somehow, you don't want to fight the current. I cannot help but feel challenged as a person, and even as a woman, after I finish one of his books. Whether it's challenged in strength, such as Thomas' journey in the Circle Series; or faith, with Miriam and Seth in 'Blink of an Eye'; or bravery in the face of pursuit by Sterling Red (a seriously scary serial killer!) in 'Skin'; or challenged by self-worth and feeling content with myself, like Paradise did in 'The Bride Collector'; or challenged in love - by far the strongest message in all of Ted's stories - but most especially in The Martyr's Song series.

So a message to anyone who reads this - if you are excited by the thought of fantasy, of adventure, excitement, betrayal, murder, supernatural powers of the mind and body, mystery, intrigue, heart-stopping endings, unforgettable characters, and above all, excited by love (and by love, I mean the real, die-for-someone-else type love) - then you absolutely MUST read a novel by Ted Dekker. Then again, why stop at one? Why not read them all? I surely plan to. Just give me a week or two.

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