Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Book Review: Blood Miles by Andrew Moody

Blood Miles CoverBlood Miles is a more sophisticated and reliable version of The Shack, containing elements of Pilgrim’s Regress, but set in a Mad Max dystopic wasteland.  Pilgrim’s Regress was CS Lewis’ first book as a Christian author. It is a philosophical and biographical version of Pilgrim’s Progress and feels more episodic than his later work. The Shack is a Christian novel that was interesting because it popularised discussion about the Trinity and Theodicy, but flawed because it misrepresented the unity and distinctiveness of the Godhead and didn’t strike the Biblical balance of showing how God allows but doesn’t approve of evil. Andrew Moody is a graphic designer by day and an academic by night, having completed a PhD in how best to describe the volitional distinctions between the persons of the Trinity. The shorter version of his thesis was published as In the Light of the Son: Seeing everything through the Father's love for the Son. This is his first of hopefully many novels. 

Christian fiction is often saccharine or moralistic. Good fiction should help us explore ideas we might not normally experience in our ordinary lives. Additionally good fiction has both a plausible secondary world and plot sustained by rising tension. I think the trick that enables Moody to pull off a readable story is by making it obvious this is theological allegory that roughly follows the plot line of Pilgrim’s Progress. So this creates a double tension, there is the normal tension of plot; a danger, difficulty or barrier - a partial solution - and then a new problem arising from the solution etc, and then there is also the tension of wondering what does this particular event or person represent theologically? Because we’re all familiar with the hero’s journey motif, for example Frodo destroying the Ring and the genre of dystopias, the Blood Miles secondary world feels plausible.  However the vivid descriptions and frequent violence makes the allegory less obvious and the moral problems sharper without becoming salacious. While the climax and the conclusion are effective I wanted Moody to take us closer in the denouement to Central like John Bunyan does in Pilgrim’s Progress and Lewis does in The Last Battle

There are some great descriptions of God and the gospel tucked into the text. For example: "He talked about how the Pantarch had finally sent his own man into the territory; how the Council's men had caught him and killed him - and how Central had brought him back to life and rebuilt his body and put him charge of everything." (106) Like with Pilgrims Progress, Moody’s allegory made me more conscious of my own sanctification. And similarly to Pilgrim’s Regress there are some great philosophical allegories. For example: the warring towns of Ockham and Gia, are both locked into a quixotic struggle to manage the fall-out of the Tox without addressing its actual reality. Lastly it was so much fun to see a dystopic setting used in this way, which reminded me a bit of A canticle for Leibowitz.