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Monday, September 15, 2008

Isolation by Travis Thrasher

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Isolation FaithWords (September 12, 2008) by Travis Thrasher.


It was during third grade after a teacher encouraged him in his writing and as he read through The Narnia Chronicles by C.S. Lewis that Travis decided he wanted to be a writer. The dream never left him, and allowed him to fulfill that dream of writing full-time in 2007.

Travis Thrasher is the author of numerous works of fiction, including his most personal and perhaps his deepest work, Sky Blue, that was published in summer of 2007. This year he has two novels published, Out of the Devil’s Mouth, and a supernatural thriller, Isolation.

Travis is married to Sharon and they are the proud parents of Kylie, born in November, 2006, and Hailey, a Shih-Tzu who looks like an Ewok. They live in suburban Chicago.





. . . Alone

When a missionary family moves into a secluded mansion in the mountains of North Carolina, they think they are escaping their nightmares. But when a snowstorm hits and they are trapped inside their new home, their worst fears become reality. As they fight to stay alive, they will be tested in ways they never imagined. Can their love for one another and their faith in God save them from the dangers lurking here?

A masterfully written story that will grip you from its mysterious beginning to its chilling end.

From Publishers Weekly:

"In this dark chiller, Thrasher (Sky Blue; The Promise Remains) demonstrates a considerable talent for the horror genre. Like Stephen King, Thrasher pits flawed but likable characters against evil forces that at first seem escapable but gradually take on a terrifying ubiquity.

The Miller family has recently returned to suburban Chicago after a harrowing experience on the mission field. Hoping to get away from the busyness of suburban living, they travel to the mountains of North Carolina for an extended stay in an enormous, remote lodge where husband and father Jim plans to write a book while trying to reconnect with his family.

When a snowstorm isolates them further and spiritual attacks make them feel they are losing their minds, both Jim and his wife, Stephanie, begin to wonder if God can rescue them and their two young children. Aside from sharing too many plot points with The Shining, this novel hits very few false notes and should appeal to fans of Christian fiction, the horror genre and all who enjoy well-crafted and suspenseful stories."

If you would like to read the first chapter of Isolation, go here.


This novel is a gripping, enjoyable, fast-paced ride that is both scary and filled with a clear biblical message. I was literally glued and closed the book on Sunday night only because I had to get some sleep. Yes, this is a horror tale, but the story is more about the family's survival than about acts of violence, more about things that go bump in the night than about blood and gore. Thrasher does a splendid job of balancing scary scenes with clear faith elements. I must admit that when I started reading the novel, the story felt vaguely familiar. After all, there's a big, creepy house; a bad guy who's as evil as they get; nefarious intent; hints of possible demonism. These plot devices have been used time and again, but Thrasher did a good job of putting a new spin on them.

SPOILER WARNING: The nature of evil the family faces is a bit darker at times than I expected or even wanted, but Thrasher does a good job of exercising restraint and handling details with tact. I could tell from the beginning revelations about an exorcism that went wrong on the mission field that satanism was going to be featured in this novel. It was, and a few scenes left me feeling more than a little unsettled. But again, Thrasher exercised restraint and didn't tell the reader more than he needed to know. Unfortunately, though, the imagination does tend to fill in the blanks. For that reason, I think a few story elements could have been scaled back. I didn't really need to see all of the torture devices or the video clip of a whimpering woman just before being sacrificed.

Yes, this novel has a body count, but Thrasher does a good job of implying violence without throwing it in the reader's face, although some details may be too much for some readers. I was impressed with how he'd stop just before the violent act and then cut to someone discovering the body. In that regard, he is a much nicer, cleaner version of Stephen King, to whom he has been compared. For that reason alone, Thrasher deserves a thank you because I don't touch King, who is typically too far over the edge in the violence and subject matter departments for me to waste my time. In many ways, I think this novel is like vicariously enjoying the best of King without wading through a cesspool. So if you've wanted to read King but didn't want to feel like taking a shower afterwards, Thrasher offers a more acceptable and sanitized alternative.

I do have a few nitpicks with the novel. For one, I've never seen so many missionaries drinking beer, wine, and even gin in one book. The missionary's wife even gets a little tipsy. I guess I must represent the ultra conservative fringe because every missionary (and I know quite a few) and believer I know avoids alcoholic beverages—and for good reason. Sure, believers may debate the issue, but I found the imbibing a bit distracting. One other nitpick is that if you've ever seen a horror film, you know that the villain always comes back, even when he's supposed to be dead. This cliche unfortunately found its way into Isolation. My last nitpick is that I think events are tied up a little too neatly at the end. I don't want to give anything away, but a pretty severe event occurs to one member of the family. Somehow God works a miracle, and everything's suddenly fine. In my opinion this plot twist was the weakest part of the story.

I appreciate Thrasher's message as depicted through Jim, the father, who has pretty much turned his back on God since things went sour on the mission field. We see Jim's disillusionment time and time again. When the family faces trials, they should be reaching toward God, but adversity actually drives them farther away. Jim becomes more bitter and more isolated from what he knows to be true. His struggle is actually quite compelling because so many of us can relate. How many of us have faced seemingly unexplainable hardships and couldn't help wondering where God was? In the end, it takes a miracle to open Jim's eyes. I was happy to see Jim return to his faith, but I couldn't help thinking, Life doesn't always work that way. Things aren't always magically fixed at the end. What if God hadn't worked the miracle? Without the miracle, would Jim still have turned back to God? I guess that's the million-dollar question for everyone. Do we still trust God even when He seems to turn His back on us?

All in all, I was impressed with Isolation. Some of the subject matter flirted closer to the edge than I would have preferred. Some of the violence may be too much for some readers, but I personally don't think Thrasher went too far. He is truly a master at suspense, and I had a very hard time putting the novel down. I was also pleased that he didn't compromise the faith elements in the story and produce a secular story with a couple references to God thrown in. This novel centers squarely on faith and the Word of God, and I found that fact refreshing. In the end, it's the Word of God that wins the day. This was the most suspenseful, fast-paced ride I've enjoyed since the last Peretti or Dekker. I'll definitely be looking for the next Thrasher novel.

1 comment:

  1. great job on your review! I couldn't write that much if someone paid me :)