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Review: Toward the Gleam

Books

When Oxford philologist John Hill (a fictionalized J.R.R. Tolkien) finds a supernatural book from an unheard-of prehistoric civilization, he has a typical academic response: Research! In Toward the Gleam (Ignatius Press, 2011), T.M. Doran sets up a battle between good and evil. Hill's work on the epic takes him into the path of Dr. Adler Alembert, his sharp intellectual and spiritual antagonist. Alembert attacks Hill with a variety of weapons-from exotic creatures to mysterious assassins-but Hill, tried in the trenches of World War I, remains one step ahead.

Coming alongside Hill is a cast of pivotal characters, some of whom are immediately (and sometimes jarringly) recognizable. The Inklings, Agatha Christie, and G.K. Chesterton all make an appearance.

Toward the Gleam is also a novel of ideas. Hill is a classical Christian, though that is left unstated; Alembert is a nihilist. Other characters portray other worldviews. The result is a novel that explores faith vs. scientism, Christianity vs. postmodernism, and good vs. evil.

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Toward the Gleam will satisfy the reader who is more interested in philosophical and religious clarity than great writing. The book occasionally feels one-dimensional because the characters don't talk to each other; they exchange philosophical discourses. In an attempt to humanize Hill, Doran makes him struggle with an attraction to another character, despite being in a stable marriage. But that doesn't seem in keeping with Hill's intensely focused character. Still, Doran does a good job playing out the implications of different worldviews within the framework of a fantasy story. While not easy to read, it is an admirable attempt to emulate Lewis, Tolkien, and similar writers.

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