How to Baptize the Imagination

C. S. Lewis once said that George MacDonald “baptized [his] imagination.” I give no guarantee that these books will do the same, but they live in my heart, mind and soul. Most are fantasy and SF, so if this genre isn’t for you, give a few a try. You might find yourself being drawn in after all.  Great SF and fantasy starts with great stories.

Madeline L’Engle.  A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters.  This entire series introduces us to the Murry family and other wonderful characters, combines science and faith in astonishing ways, creates images which transport my mind to other places, and soaks the spirit in the delicious wine of Christian thinking.

J. R. R. Tolkien. The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring (1)  The Two Towers (2), The Return of the King (3)  Anything brilliant that can be said about Tolkien has been said countless times.  Suffice to say that no other fantasy, Christian or secular, has ever gathered to itself such a deserved reputation of greatness, and that this series remains the book for my generation, and for those afterward.  Any fantasy author must deal with him.

C. S. Lewis. The Cosmic Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength.  Science fiction of the highest water-mark, gems scattered throughout, and conceptions that I have seldom encountered elsewhere.

C. S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia. First time readers must begin with Lion Witch and the Wardrobe, no matter what publisher’s edition they may encounter, even if The Magician’s Nephew has a 1 on the cover.  The story is just better that way.  After that, read how they like—but read all seven.

Lew Wallace.  Ben-Hur:  A Tale of the ChristLloyd C. Douglas.  The Robe.  Henryk Sienkewicz.  Quo Vadis.  These three took me (as close as possible) to the first century, placed me in the first century mind, and heart, gave me a love of history and a feeling for the deep reaches of other times, and deepened my grasp of Scripture.

Chris WalleyThe Lamb Among the Stars:  The Shadow of the Evening, The Power of the Night (printed in a combined volume Shadow and Night), The Dark Foundations, The Infinite Day.  Christians in space—gloriously done, with unusual quirks that practically made me tear the pages, I wanted to read them so fast.  Great characters and fascinating vision.  Once I had the whole story, I wanted to read it again, and always will.

Kathy TyersFirebird, Fusion Fire, and Crown of Fire.  Compelling tale of a woman doomed to die, the enemy she grows to love, and the sacrifices they both make on a very distant planet.

Two others in the series I have not read yet:  Wind and Shadow and Daystar.

Gene WolfeThe Book of the New Sun:  Shadow of the Torturer (1), Claw of the Conciliator (2), Sword of the Lictor (3), Citadel of the Autarch (4).  Set in a far future so distant that it feels as if one reads ancient scrolls.  Followed by Urth of the New Sun.  I first read “Seven American Nights,” a short story, and knew that this was a master.  He never writes the same book twice.  The Soldier series is set in ancient times. The Book of the Long Sun and the Book of the Short Sun (all multi-book series) are also terrific.  Find anything by him, and revel in the wonder he sets before you. He can be dense, but keep reading.  You will reap a great reward. And yes, all the strange words  you’ll come across are real.  He did not make them up.

Cordwainer Smith.  Norstrilia.    His only novel. The Instrumentality of Mankind.  Short stories set in a universe so original, only Wolfe stands beside him.  Lush language, and classic tales unlike any others.  Smith’s short story skill exceeded his novelistic, but read everything.  This man’s work must be remembered.

George MacDonald.  Phantastes, Lilith.  I think it’s the language that captured me, for my memory of the stories is (at this moment) non-existent.  I must read them again.  The Princess and the Goblin, and The Princess and Curdie are for children, and I recall them much more.

G. K. Chesterton. Father Brown mysteries. Pictures a truly humble man solving crimes. The Man Who Was Thursday. Complex comedy, with many surprises.

Dorothy Sayers.  The Lord Peter Wimsey Series.  Wonderful mysteries in their own right, and an appealing detective.  Compares admirably with the Adam Dagleish series by P. D. James.

Dean Koontz.  Start with False Memory, Midnight, and Watchers.  He redeems the horror genre, but also dips into SF.  Innocence and The City are his latest.  He hasn’t slowed in the prolific creations he’s  wrought, after so many tales, and won’t.  Find the Frankenstein series, too.  It’s a magnificent re-working.

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