Monday, August 27, 2007

Skin – Ted Dekker

There is a problem with a book that only ends well. It never gets read. When I taught literature, I convinced many of my students to explore the possibility of reading. I never expected them to truly enjoy those things that I made them read—I didn’t even expect the majority of them to read those books I told them to read. However, I wanted them to give reading a chance. My answer: give a book two to three chapters before saying, “This one’s just boring,” and giving up. I figure that most of the time, even the slow starters will show enough sign of promise to keep the reader reading.

Skin is a book that ends well. It ends really well. So well in fact that I can’t give much information without invoking a double spoiler alert. I stuck with the book to get through the interesting parts, not because I wanted to (really), but because I was determined to give a plausible review here. (Something that can’t be done if you stop after chapter three.) Why was this important? Because Dekker is such a talented wordsmith. Perhaps the struggle with Skin lies in the pressure for talented, rising-star authors to crank out at least one book a year forces occasional mediocrity.

The story follows the adventures of a group of young adults thrust together by circumstance. During the course of their lives together, these six people are thrust back and forth between the town of Summerville (devastated by a massive tornado and the terror created by a ruthless murderer) and a vast desert which replaces the town from time to time leaving only the structures of the town library and the house of the doctor who had the library built. This jumping back and forth leaves the reader trying to decide whether or not he is reading a fantasy (played out in the desert) or a police procedural-type mystery.

From time to time there are glimpses of Dekker’s writing talent, usually embodied in the setting of the town without the advent of the desert. Often the writing seems disjointed. So how long should the reader give this selection in order to make it worthwhile reading? My estimation is about 40 to 45 chapters. Die-hard Dekker fans will want to read this book. Those who enjoyed House and Showdown will like portions, but will find the writing not up to Dekker’s normal par. If you must read everything that Dekker writes, I would advise you to rush to the last 125 or 150 pages. As I said, the book ends really well. Because of the good ending I give Skin 1 ½ thumbs. Sorry I can’t give the first two-thirds of the book even a thumb to stand on .

—Benjamin Potter, August 27, 2007

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