Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Book Review: Crescent Tides by J. Aaron Gruben

How far would you go to defend the life you knew in the past?

The year is 1562, and Europe is at war with the Ottoman Turks. The climax of this war is the famous naval battle of Lepanto, where the Holy League decisively defeated the Ottoman navy. But what if Lepanto had turned out differently? What if the Turks had defeated the Holy League’s fleet? What impact would this have on Europe? Enter Crescent Tides, a historical novel dealing with these very questions. 

Dr. Calvin “Cal” Schmitt is an ordinary, overworked, veterinarian living in the heart of New Mexico. His life is one unending treadmill of sick animals, irate owners, and overwork in massive quantities. At last he gets a welcome “break” out of the office to visit a sick horse on a man’s property. While setting up, his overcurious technician Fred Kawalkowitz pulls on a bridle in the tack room, opening a door and revealing another room. Dr. Schmitt’s passenger, an ultra-liberal doctor named Sara Perez moves to investigate the room, and sets her feet on a strange device. As Schmitt grabs for her, they are both shot back into time to 1562 and the battle of Lepanto.

The two time travellers are quickly followed by Fred, and discover that they are aboard the La Real, the flagship of the Holy League in a naval battle against the Ottoman Turks. Before they have time to take it all in, a group of armed time travellers appears aboard La Real. With machine guns, they massacre the crew and turn La Real into a Turkish ship. The Holy League, distracted by the takeover of their flagship, is obliterated by the Ottoman fleet. Now nothing stands in the way of a Turkish conquest of Europe. Nothing, that is, except for Dr. Calvin Schmitt.


Knights and Janissaries of the 16th century will forge strange alliances with 21st Century men and their “magic arquebuses.” But whether wielding swords or automatic rifles, each warrior fights for a certain way of life—and these two philosophies will clash on the battlefield.

This book explores several interesting themes: the difference between the 16th and 21st centuries, nobility and knightly conduct, the Crusades, how our decisions affect the future, and the differences between Christianity and Islam. But one of the book’s most powerful themes revolves around trusting a personal God vs. resigning oneself to an inevitable—and impersonal—fate. This was definitely the high point of the book for me.

I enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. 4/5 stars


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe: Lessons of Sacrifice

The theme of sacrifice is woven into C. S. Lewis’ book The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the filmmakers who adapted it for a 2005 movie kept this important element. In fact, they amplified it by including more examples than were given in the book. In the movie, we first see sacrifice during the air-raid. Edmund returns to the house to get his dad’s picture, and Peter accompanies him back to the safety of the Pevensies’ bomb shelter.



In Narnia, Mr. Tumnus sacrifices his security to guide Lucy back to the lamp-post after he attempted to kidnap her. When all four of the Pevensie children--Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy--arrive in Narnia, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver then put themselves at risk to help these four.  They are betrayed by Edmund, who joins the evil White Witch, and a fox sacrifices himself to draw the Witch’s Secret Police off on a false scent.




But the most important example of sacrifice in this movie comes when Aslan the royal lion chooses to die so that Edmund, the traitor who joined the Witch, can go free. This is a parallel to what Jesus Christ has done for sinners, including me. Once I was a sinner who looked down on and snubbed almost all of the people in the world. They lived in the wrong countries, read the wrong books, knew the wrong friends.  This is obviously opposed to Jesus’ command to “love thy neighbor as thyself." (see Mark 12:31)  But Jesus Christ set me free from those chains just like Aslan saved Edmund from the White Witch’s vengeance.



Near the end of the movie, the Pevensie siblings and Aslan's army engage the Witch's cohorts in a climactic battle, which shows several instances of duty and sacrifice. When Peter’s white unicorn is shot with an arrow, it bucks, sending him flying directly into the path of the Witch’s hordes. To give Peter time to regain his army, the valiant centaur Oreius and a rhinoceros charge headlong at the enemy, ultimately sacrificing themselves (the rhinoceros is wounded and Oreius turned to stone) to help Peter.



As the battle rages, Edmund sees the Witch sneaking toward Peter, who is heavily engaged in the fighting.  She wants to turn him to stone with her magic wand. Edmund ambushes her and breaks her wand into splinters. The White Witch stabs Edmund, badly wounding him, but Peter charges to his brother's assistance.  He then duels the Witch in an epic swordfight.


All of these lessons should be exhibited in our own lives.  We do not have to duel the White Witch with swords, but oftentimes we need to sacrifice in other ways.  Washing dishes, volunteering in thankless positions, being patient with those who are impatient--all of these are a sacrifice just as much as Oreius's charge or the Beavers' hospitality.