Wednesday, January 9, 2008

R. M. Ballantyne

The Coral Island
by R.M. Ballantyne
Recommended Age: 10+

I'm a sucker for adventures of innocents abroad. That weakness has led me, beyond all my expectations, to become a fan of fantasy such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings. After all, as the son of an avid Science Fiction buff, I never really cared for the genre when I was younger. Another category of books my innocents-abroad weakness has led me to, is the genre of Adventures at Sea. Actually, I think fantasy and sailing adventures have a lot in common. At least for landlubbers like me, they both enable you to escape from the world you know to a strange land where the rules are different, the language is different, and the dangers of nature and enemies must be met with skills and weapons so far-out that they might as well be magic wands.

If you buy that, you might also consider buying a few sailor stories, such as Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson and Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling. These stories led me, in turn, to the Horatio Hornblower series and, incidentally, to this little treasure from about the same era. Set among the wonders, dangers, and beauties of the South Pacific, it tells the story of three boys--Ralph, the narrator; Jack, the leader; and Peterkin, the clown--who escape from a band of bloodthirsty pirates only to be marooned on a tropical island. While they learn to survive, and even live in style, the danger from pirates and cannibals converges upon them. And all the three boys have on their side is their cleverness, courage, and faithful friendship.

Today's readers may find it surprising to find a book like this going out of its way to praise God and express Christian religious beliefs in a positive way. This may not, for instance, be the Principal's Pick for a public school reading program. However, it is gratifying for some of us to know that, here and there, there are works of non-religious fiction that approach things from a Christian perspective. And without being preachy or trying to make converts, books like this can demonstrate that a good, thrilling story can be told without needing to bash religion.

Take that, if you will, as a caution or as an endorsement. It depends on your point of view.

No comments: