Okay, I’ll admit that I had no idea what “Riven” meant when I picked up this book. Why, then, would I buy it? A couple reasons, actually; you already know I’m a sucker for sales. That should say enough. But, I also picked it up because of the author. Prior to this, I was only familiar with Jenkins’ work with Lahaye on the Left Behind series, the fictional account of the tribulation. Depending on how you look at it, that work could almost fall in the science-fiction category.
I’m also a sucker for science-fiction…and Riven sounded odd, so it had to be science-fiction…or thus my thinking went.
It’s not science fiction and I learned through the author’s note that it isn’t the only other work outside of Left Behind he’s done. Since when did books stop listing the “other works” by the author? As a young reader, I used those lists as a checklist for other books I wanted to get when I found a good one; I always figured if I liked that work, I’d like others. Tis a major marketing mistake not to have that list, methinks.
I also learned through the author’s note that Riven is the story he’s been dying to tell for years and years. And only an author with his name recognition could get away with it. At 526 pages, it’s about 250 pages too long. Oh, it’s not that it is a bad story, it’s not. It’s just too long. The first 4/5 of the book is where the reduction should have occurred. In fact, it’s not until the last fifth of the book that you realize the first 4/5’s were connected.
The story is about a Brady, a young man who makes horrible decisions his entire life—and we get to see just about every single horrible decision he makes; and Thomas, a lifelong pastor who’s shuffled unappreciated from one church to the next. Both of these characters, and their supporting crew, are interesting in their own right, but both almost deserve their own book. After the first few chapters back and forth between the characters, there’s never any real suspense that their lives will meet up someway, somehow. The suspense is trying to figure out when and how. That’s aided, of course, by the number of pages left still held in your right hand. The “how” they meet up is also not much of a surprise and we see it coming a long way off. The surprise comes in the end result.
This doesn’t strike me as either an anti or pro death penalty work. Both sides seem to have equal representation in the characters. However, the death penalty will certainly be on your mind once you finish the book.
Do I recommend it? Yeah, I do. It is a good read; the characters are interesting and that propels you forward. Jenkins’ prose also flows well and is easy to both follow and read. Would Jenkins have gotten away with it if he wasn’t Jenkins? No way. It’d be about half the size. That shouldn’t stop us from reading it now.