The Circle Trilogy comes full circle. How can a book be both the beginning and end to a series? That is what is claimed by thriller author Ted Dekker in the 4th book (or “Book Zero”) of his wildly popular Circle series, Green.
I came into contact with Dekker’s Circle series because my wife reads newly released fiction. (I try not to read anything fiction newer than The Lord of Rings unless I have a compelling reason to.) I have to say that for the most part, I enjoyed reading the original trilogy. Dekker’s greatest strength as a writer lies in his ideas. A man flitting each time he falls asleep between two realities, one where the spiritual realities of this world exist in visible form and one with a deadly virus threatening to bring the apocalypse, makes for compelling reason. Angels and demons are now oversized bats. Sin is now a scaly disease of sin. Baptism is replaced by a literal drowning. It’s one of those ideas that you either wish you thought of or will claim that you thought of years ago but were too lazy to write about. In the original trilogy, Black (Book one) is the most successful at maintaining this mystery and suspense, especially in its lofty attempts to recreate the beauty of a pre-Fall world. (Even if you are a book snob like me, it’d be worth a few hours of your life to go through the original three.)
Green attempts to tie all the loose ends up from the original trilogy, and in effect, to start it as well. Dekker also weaves much material from the two spin-off series of the Circle trilogy (the Paradise novels and the Lost Books). Having read all six Lost Books, I wonder if those reading Green first of all the books will be able to handle the mad list of characters that Dekker spends little time describing but are key to the plot. Green does maintain a lot of benefit for those who have read, a sort of reward for faithful reading. It also maintains the momentum and speed Dekker’s writing is known for.
There are few complaints, however. Green like the previous books maintains a major fault of Dekker’s writing. He does well with fast moving scenes, but his short paragraphs and frequent use of back-and-forth dialogue makes it difficult for him to properly execute the more emotional moments of the narrative. Some have compared his imaginative worlds with those of CS Lewis, but gone from Dekker’s books are the emotional weight and deliberate pacing Lewis is able to deftly use at times. Compare the climactic drowning scene in Red with Aslan’s slow walk to the stone table in Lion, Witch and Wardrobe. I think this ability to write slow scenes at the proper times would take Dekker’s writing to a new level. (I’m not a writer, but a reader, so I can offer no tips regarding how one does this.)
Second, while Green does little to wrap up the plot lines found in the Lost Books, it does heavily utilize one of my least favorite parts of them–the development of vampires. When I first read The Lost Books, I think Chaos is the one where they show up, I thought, “Neat. Maybe Dekker’s opening a new series up about vampire hunters.” However, Green spends a lot of time dwelling on things like blood-drinking. A lot. It keeps happening. Every other scene. I know part of Dekker’s goal was to heighten the visible evil before the end of the book, but that got old very fast.
Third, the ending/beginning of the series at the end of Green doesn’t actually make sense to me. Well, it makes sense in the plausibility factor, but based on the fact the story is now a closed circle (unless alternate sequels appear), it creates a cycle of futility. That’s just my opinion. Some will say it was the awesomest thing ever. And the fact that we still don’t know how the first world ended…
Green is probably the weakest of the four Circle books. Fans of the series will have to read it or die of unsatisfied curiosity. However, I would suggest others enjoy the rich symbols of the original trilogy and decide from there.