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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Nightmare by Robin Parrish

This week, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is introducing Nightmare
(Bethany House, July 1, 2010) by
Robin Parrish

About the Author

Robin Parrish is a journalist who's written about the intersection of faith and pop culture for more than a decade. Currently he serves as Senior Editor at, a community portal that fuses social networking with magazine-style features about entertainment and culture.

He had two great ambitions in his life: to have a family, and to be a published novelist. In March of 2005, he proposed to his future wife the same week he signed his first book contract with Bethany House Publishers. They contracted him for the rights to The Dominion Trilogy: Relentless (2006), Fearless (2007), and Merciless (2008). His science fiction thriller, Offworld came out in 2009. This summer debuts Nightmare, and he's working on another for 2011. Robin and his wife and children live in North Carolina.

About the Book

The Nightmare is Coming...

Ghost Town is the hottest amusement park in the country, offering state-of-the-art chills and thrills involving the paranormal. The park's main ride is a haunted house that promises an encounter with a real ghost.

When Maia Peters visits during her senior year of college, she's not expecting to be impressed. Maia grew up as the only child of a pair of world-renowned "ghost hunters," so the paranormal is nothing new and to her most of the park is just Hollywood special effects. In fact, the ride feels pretty boring until the very end. There, a face appears from the mist. The face of Jordin Cole, a girl Maia knows who disappeared from campus a few months ago.

Convinced what she saw wasn't a hoax and desperate to find answers to Jordin's disappearance, Maia launches into a quest for answers. Joined by Jordin's boyfriend--a pastor's kid with very different ideas about paranormal and the spirit realm--Maia finds herself in a struggle against dangerous forces she never expected to confront on the edge of the spirit realm that try to keep the truth from emerging.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Nightmare, go HERE.

My Review

This was an enjoyable, engaging read. It was unique and certainly nothing I've ever read or expected from the CBA before, considering the subject matter of the spirit world. These subjects, however, were addressed with a clear presentation that demonic activity is evil. The whole subject of ghosts and spirits, however, was not as black and white. That said, this was a true page-turner. Parrish pulled me in, and I found the novel hard to put down. I appreciated his disclaimer at the end that paranormal involvement is inherently dangerous and not something he recommends. Yet what the author warns against is what so much of the novel is about, so this message seems a bit conflicted.

Anybody into supernatural suspense will probably enjoy this novel. I especially liked the visits to real places, such as Alcatraz. The author obviously did a lot of research to pull this off and should be commended for the extra work involved. The photos included in the book also gave the overall presentation a nice touch.

As you may guess, I had a few qualms with this novel. Since the reader sees the story from Maia's POV, he or she reads what she thinks about ghosts and spirits and must simply take her word for it. But I'm afraid this aspect was probably the novel's greatest weakness simply because I don't buy into everything Maia buys into. I don't believe in ghosts (beyond demonic activity), and I read most of these episodes of paranormal activity, thinking, Yeah, right. So the story was on shaky ground to begin with. Each paranormal visit—from the sanitorium at the beginning to the hotel where Stephen King wrote The Shining—didn't keep me as white-knuckled as perhaps it should have.

I have on occasion paused at the SyFy channel show Ghost Hunters, and most of this novel reads just like one of those episodes. A lot of bumps in the night, cold spots, creepy voices captured on fancy equipment, the laughter of children. Nothing concrete one can hang his hat on . . . until the twist comes. The paranormal incidents in the novel become much more serious—downright evil, in fact. At one point, Maia assures Jordin that she doesn't delve into the nastiest spirit manifestations, but how can she control which spirits manifest themselves? I began wondering about the point of the manifestations until I realized we were watching Jordin's gradual descent into demonic oppression. 

I had difficulty relating to Maia. Her clinical coldness doesn't help convey the shock value perhaps intended. Unfortunately, her comrades don't especially ring true either. Jordin is infatuated with the spirit world in contradiction to her evangelical moorings. Good Christians simply shouldn't dabble in the occult. Why would her boyfriend, an up-and-rising evangelical pastor, even be dating someone so obsessed with spiritualism and so obviously lacking in her understanding of Scripture? Again, plausibility is weak here. As the climax and final revelations unraveled, I continued to struggle. The story was over the top for me, and I had a hard time buying it.

I also felt uncomfortable with this journey into spiritualism. As the paranormal activity escalates, it's obvious that Casper the Friendly Ghost has morphed into a talon-raking demon out for Jordin's soul. Twice the name of Jesus Christ is invoked to perhaps summon a spirit or drive it away—as if His holy name can be manipulated as some sort of lucky talisman for warding off evil spirits. Unfortunately, we see nothing else about Jesus for the rest of the story (with the exception of references to God and Jehovah), which is puzzling and really a shame. When the spirit begins speaking by using Maia's voice beyond her control, the story clearly crossed the line from benign ghost story to one about demon possession—and my alarm and surprise mounted.

In my opinion the story has too much emphasis on the demonic side of the supernatural without the balance of a clear, biblical worldview. Maia is a Catholic, and it's unclear that she ever turns to Jesus alone for salvation. So how is she able to combat a demon if she has no spiritual power to do so? To be fair, it's clear that the demon hates God, but how he is defeated (beyond Derek's prayers) seems to have little to do with God or Jesus or the gospel. The worldview presented here is just too fuzzy. Jesus and the gospel should win the battle here, and combat using biblical weaponry would have made more sense. We don't wrestle against flesh and blood.

I see some clear dangers as well, in spite of the author's disclaimer. Couldn't a story like this generate an interest in the spirit world, creating an ungodly curiosity in spiritualism? Does God want us dwelling on the subject master of spirit, possibly demonic, encounters? Could Satan use this fascination for his own ends, pulling us in just as he pulled Jordin in? I'm certain many who read this novel will debate these issues. I kept thinking about Philippians 4:8 and what God wants us to be thinking about. I enjoy supernatural suspense on occasion, but this one pushed the line too far for me.

Note: I received my review copy courtesy of Bethany House for the CFBA.


  1. Hmmm...thoughtful review...sounds like it should be read with mh caution.

  2. Hello. I saw your review through the CFBA website. I haven't read the book yet, but intend to soon. Still, I wanted to comment on this line in your review: "Good Christians simply don't dabble in the occult."

    I don't know how Christian this girl is made out to be, but good Christians can get blinded by the enemy and open themselves up to things. Ideally they don't, but I know plenty of people who loved the Lord but were weak in areas and got off track in their walk. I thought your review was pretty balanced and fair overall, but that line was a bit too much generalization.

    Is my critique fair? I guess I'll find out soon, as the book arrives this week! Still, it was good to find out about you. I'll have to stop back. Have a great day!


  3. Thanks, Jason, for your thoughts. I changed the wording slightly to read "Good Christians simply shouldn't dabble in the occult."