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Skin
by Ted Dekker

Reviewed by Kevin Lucia

"... this is what true storytelling is."

Ted Dekker has been here for years, but he’s finally arrived.

This might sound strange, considering that Dekker’s been a resounding voice in Christian fiction for the past ten years. However, his most recent work, Skin, demonstrates without a doubt that he’s what many Christian readers have longed for over the past few years: a Christian novelist who writes compelling, thought-provoking fiction that is wildly out-of-the-box, speculative, boundary-breaking, and open-ended enough to have mainstream appeal, yet carries Godly values and truths to those who’d never in their lives dare to venture into a Christian book store, let alone pick up a “Christian novel”.

Following closely on the heels of Showdown, House, and Saint, Skin regales readers with a tale of horror, suspense, and mind-bending reality. A serial killer has come to Summerville, Nevada, and has chosen a group of victims seemingly at random to torture according to his own murderous whims. However, a deep, dark secret connects them all, a thin thread of truth covered over by lies, deception, and false perceptions. Led by small-town deputy Colt Jackson, who has fled from Las Vegas to Summerville to escape the very violence the killer offers, this small band of hostages struggle against their foe--a man named Sterling Red--but none of them know the truth, as reality shifts and bends around them, according to Red’s manipulations.

What follows is a tale of painful self-evaluation, introspective analysis exposing their deepest, darkest secrets, and a question that may well be their salvation or doom: what is true beauty? Where does it lie – on the inside, or the outside?

And what would you do if the only way to save yourself was to kill the least beautiful person amongst you?

Behind it all, Sterling Red laughs hard and long--the only one who truly knows the score, and a greater, larger evil echoes in his voice as he sneers at Colt in the ultimate showdown . . .

Wanna trip, baby?

This latest offering by Ted Dekker is going to provoke a reaction, be very sure of that, Faithful Readers, (if I could borrow a quip from Stephen King for a moment), and there are bound to be volumes of opinions, praises, plaudits and criticisms, but regardless of those – this is true fiction. True, creative story-telling, not bound by a publisher’s dictates or what is considered to be appropriate or “proper”. Skin, like Ted Dekker, fits in no one’s box – which is okay, seeing as Jesus didn’t either.

The dialogue in this novel is fantastic--it’s realistic, it’s believable. Goodness, one of the characters even says ass--but it fits, it just fits. I’m not sure what other Christians think of this, but I don’t know how many times I’ve cringed in almost physical pain when I came across something like this: “What the heck?” he screamed in rage. (I’m sorry, but how in the world does heck and rage go together?) I’m never one to encourage profanity and “potty-talk”, but there comes a point in writing when you have to ask this question: are we portraying reality, or telling a safe, bed-time story? The latter has its place, and I’m not suggesting that all Christian novels become rife with swear words. Readers should have the choice not to encounter that, but Dekker portrays the reality of people, as they are--warts and all.

I can even admit being a little lukewarm on my first Dekker novel, Blink. I found it an interesting concept, but the characters were simply not engaging enough for my liking. However--and I only have my humble experience as a life-long reader to support my claim--since reading Showdown, I’ve encountered a depth and maturity in Dekker’s writing that’s been hard to find elsewhere in the CBA (Christian Bookseller Association) in the last few years--with the exception of recent offerings from Kathryn Mackel (The Hidden; Birthright Project series), Robin Parrish (The Dominion Trilogy), T.L. Hines (Waking Lazarus), and Robert Liparulo (Comes A Horseman, Germ). Is it ironic that of these authors, including Ted Dekker, four of them have been published through Thomas Nelson, and two through Bethany House? Hmmm. Something to keep an eye on, I believe.

Either way, when Skin hits the shelves in April, get it into your hands, Faithful Readers – this is what true storytelling is.

Kevin LuciaKevin Lucia Kevin Lucia writes for The Press & Sun Bulletin and The Relief Journal. His short fiction has appeared in Coach’s Midnight Diner, The Relief Journal, All Hallows, Darkened Horizons Vol. 3 & 4, NexGen Pulp Magazine Issues 1 & 4, From the Shadows, Morpheus Tales Magazine, Bohemian-Alien, Shroud Publishing’s horror anthology, Abominations, and Tyndale House’s inspirational anthology Life Savors. He’s currently writing a novella for Shroud Publishing’s upcoming novella series, The Hiram Grange Chronicles. He resides in Castle Creek, New York, with his wife Abby, daughter Madison and son Zackary. He teaches high school English at Seton Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, New York; and is finishing his Masters of Arts in Creative Writing at Binghamton University. Visit him at his website and Myspace page.