Forbidden: Ted Dekker Takes on Religion

Since Ted Dekker broke into the scene less than 10 years ago, he has published nearly 40 books, which have sold around 10 million copies. The psychological thriller Thr3e quickly won him a cult following before he released his blockbuster, epic fantasy saga the following year, a trilogy of novels titled The Circle series. Dekker’s latest project is called The Books of Mortals, which he is co-authoring with Tosca Lee. Forbidden is the first of three novels, followed by Mortal, to be released this summer, and Sovereign, set for release in 2013.

Set several hundred years in the future, Forbidden presents a post-apocalyptic world in which science has finally discovered how to eliminate emotion in the human psyche. The Order, the ruling class of Earth, has set up an extensive code of laws based on the one basic emotion that all humans can still feel: fear. When a secret priesthood discovers the prophecy of a nine year-old boy who will show the world how to truly live, the rulers in the Order will do anything to hunt down and exterminate those who question them. A misfit band of rebels, who have tasted the Chaos we know as love and emotion, make it their mission to find and protect the boy of the prophecies.

Forbidden is definitely an introduction to this series, though the signature Dekker twists and suspense are ever-present. The world he and Lee create is both imaginative and dark. In this world, the main characters that drink of Chaos are confronted with the truth: that their world is dead, and the people in it deader. In the Circle Series, Ted Dekker opened readers’ eyes to an alternate universe where the spiritual is physical, and the story is dazzling. The world of the Books of Mortals seems to focus on the opposite, to haunting effect. Instead of a world where everything is alive and how it should be, it’s the story of dead people in a dead world.

As he did with The Circles series, Dekker paints a beautiful allegory with Lee. It seems they are leveling a solemn condemnation of religion and legalism. Like the Order, religion seeks to control. Religion is focused on behavioral modification and lists of do’s and dont’s. Likewise, legalism is focused on the doing, not the being. In Forbidden, when the main characters are transformed by the Chaos, their feelings are often out of control. They fall in love easily. They cry without reservation. They laugh hysterically. They begin to wonder if Chaos is worth the pain; they want the rules back. But with time, they learn to control their emotions. They become less focused on rules and more focused on people. Their hearts aren’t filled with fear of doing something wrong or reporting the wrongs of others to the Order. Instead they are driven by a desire to love others and give them the gift of Chaos.

Love is chaos. It provokes us to do unusual things. More often than not, it hurts more than it soothes. We often wonder if it’s worth it. Is it? Read Forbidden. Decide for yourself.

4 stars out of 5

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