Who is Brock Eastman? Most Adventures in Odyssey fans know him as the guy who shows up - quite entertainingly - in the Official Podcast to foil hosts Bob and Jesse in order to "leak" information about Odyssey to the fans. Officially, however, Brock Eastman is the Product Marketing Manager at Focus on the Family and the author of the book "Taken", the first entry in the "The Quest For Truth" series.
"Taken" is a futuristic, science fiction story that focuses on the Wikk family or, specifically, the children; Oliver is the eldest and a student from a prestigious academy who wishes not to be treated like a child; Tiffany is the smart, level-headed sister; and Austin and Mason are twins who bicker and get into non-stop trouble.
But the real trouble begins when their parents get kidnapped. Why were they kidnapped? That's what we hope to find out as the story unfolds. Throughout the search for their missing parents, the children encounter both friends and foes, but not everyone is as black and white as they seem...some are even blue.
To me, the model for contemporary children's Christian fiction is the "Passages" series; it was remarkably unique and creative; it refrained from being cheesy --sowing the biblical lessons seamlessly into the action, and featured strong, sympathetic characters. Due to the strength of McCusker's writing, several moments, such as the destruction of the world in "Arin's Judgement", have been branded into my brain ever since I was a young boy.
"Taken" is perhaps not edgy or gritty as "Passages", but it is equally submerged into its own world and history. There's quite a bit I liked about "Taken", such as the imaginative details of the planet, the odd creatures that inhabit it, and the technology of the time and space they live in.
And while the beginning is a little slow, the story picks up and becomes quite interesting a third of the way through. That's when the fun stuff begins - the siblings get separated and are tested in a new, unfamiliar territory. While I found the chapters involving the twins the most fun to read, the chapters involving the two older siblings held more weight since they revealed more about what was happening behind the mystery of the missing parents.
As you read through the book book you'll quickly notice that, unlike other Christian fiction, it doesn't make a lot of biblical references. It pains me to say that some Christian authors awkwardly fit in scriptural passages or exposition for the sake of having a "Christian message", and not because the story logically calls for it. In this case, the lack of discussions about God seems deliberate. And the reason why is the most interestingly part of the book; essentially, the children must discover the truth behind the origin of mankind. And hopefully we discover the answer points to our Creator.
The knowledge of who their creator is seems to have forgotten about in their world. This book made me think about how you and I take sometimes take for granted that we know from where, and from whom, our origins lie. However, although children won't be served paragraphs filled with characters pondering God's plan, God's presence is certainly around in "Taken":
"She wobbled forward as if she might faint. But for some reason, and to no one in particular, she closed her eyes and said, 'Give me strength'. A sense of calm passed over her like a breeze." (Eastman, 288)Overall, "Taken" is a good start in a promising series aimed at boys and girls ages 13 and up. I'm curious to see where the story goes. Admittedly, we don't get many answers in "Taken" - leave that to the future books - but if you like action and adventure and are in the mood to explore distant lands and to investigate a little bit of mystery, you'll definitely want to give this one a try.
Have you read "Taken"? If so, what did you think of it? Have you read the sequel, "Risk"? For more information about this series and its author, Brock Eastman, visit: http://brockeastman.wordpress.com.