Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stranger in the Chat Room

For Christian Genre Challenge

After eight months of cyber discussion with the Supreme Being, Blake, Jenn, Krys, Lorri and A.C. have all gone their separate ways for the summer. But some of them still manage to connect at their usual hangout: an online chat room. As Lorri and Jenn settle into a friendship, Lorri makes clear her feelings about Christianity – she has no interest in becoming a convert, she’s sick of standing in the saintly shadow of her virtuous big brother, and she does not want to be Jenn’s “spiritual craft project.”

Then a mysterious character invades their supposedly private domain and, claiming to know about their encounters with the Almighty, begins to challenge their beliefs. As Blake and Krys rejoin the chats, this intruder becomes increasingly malevolent. When the danger crosses the line from the virtual world into the real world, the teens find themselves up against something far more sinister than they ever could have imagined – and must defend themselves by drawing on the truth they have learned from God and His Word.
- Synopsis from the back cover of the novel.

Stranger in the Chat Room by Todd and Jedd Hafer is certainly an interesting book, and I'm glad I read it. It was a REAL bargain from for the price of USD0.99 (excluding shipping cost of USD10 which was bundled with the other 18 books I bought in the same batch). Stranger is one of the 4 books selected for my participation in the Christian Genre Challenge for the month of August.

The Hafer brothers were inspired by C. S. Lewis's classic The Screwtape Letters which has had a profound impact on their lives. They hope to reach out to teens but I think adults will like it very much too and would benefit from this work as well. I know I did because it has held my interest right till the end! The messages tugged at my heart-string and made me ponder about my relationship with my Heavenly Father. I can also see how the friends who convene regularly in the chat room really care for and are not afraid to stand up for each other. God's love and strength is evident.

I would like to share some excerpt from the books just to show how it is like. Here is one from the scene where the baddie (Watcher55) is trying to psycho Blake's sister (Strider77) into doing something she shouldn't.

CrossKrys: Lorri, for the last time: Don't play this guy's game. Let's all sign off right now. We don't HAVE to talk to this guy anymore, challenge or no challenge. We'll just block him from contacting us. That's all we have to do. Problem solved.

JennSmiles: That's true, I guess. Maybe we should just bounce outta here, Stride.

Watcher55: I guess you could try that if Lorri is truly that afraid of failure.

Strider77: Man, I'm sick of this! It's time to smack it up! I want to hear the challenge right now, Haddon, or maybe I'll sign off and never talk to you again.

JennSmiles: LORRI!

Strider77: Just shut up, OK, Jenn? This is my life. My choice.

Here's another one where Blake battles Watcher:

Watcher55: Believe me, if there is a market for it [virtue], someone would figure out how to make it and sell it. But that is not what people want. They want sleek, fast cars. They want clothes that show their good taste and their surgically and health-enhanced physiques. [...] People want success. And success is getting what you want. Feeling good. Looking good. Eating well. Living well. And sex. Lots and lots of sex. On video and on DVD. [...]

Blake7: But you're wrong about success, Watcher. And so are all the people that peddle all the crap you're talking about. Material wealth is an oxymoron as far as I am concerned. It's just a bunch of stuff. It's metal, plastic, silicone, empty thrills, and fermented liquids. What does it really do for the quality of your life? And what are you going to do with all that stuff when you die? What good will it do you in the long run?

Further down the conversation...

Blake7: I'm all over it, Jenn. Watcher, how tragic that you think "the good things" are man-made, with designer labels and high price tags. And as for letting kids have whatever they you know the parents who actually let their kids have everything they want? [...] And I guess what that kind parenting produces: The most miserable, bratty kids in the world. Kids who grow up to become unhappy, self-centred, destructive adults.

Watcher55: Come on, Blake--you have to admit that possessions make us happy. They make us feel good. Gordon Gecko said it well in the movie Wall Street: "Greed is good." [...]

Blake7: There's a word for Gecko's philosophy. It's called selfishness. The happiest people I know are, by far, the least selfish people I know. Be real, Watcher. How many selfish people do YOU know? [...]

And so on and so forth. I have placed an order for Lewis's Screwtape. I feel I shouldn't miss out on reading it. At the same time, I've also bought another contemporary version entitled The Devil's Inbox by Barbara Laymon. They should arrive in two weeks time together with 16 others.

Stranger in the Chat Room will be well worth your time spent. For adults, especially parents, it should help you understand how your teens think, feel and behave. For teens and young adults, it'll be a good learning ground or reminder: God wants us to understand the evil we battle, and He equips us with the armor and weapons necessary to win. As for me, it has definitely reminded me of God's goodness, mercy and grace.