Also by this author: The Dream Traveler's Quest, Into the Book of Light, The Curse of Shadownman, The Garden and the Serpent, The Final Judgment, Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion, Millie Maven and the Golden Vial, Millie Maven and the White Sword, Millie Maven, Play Dead
Series: The Martyr's Song #1
Published by Thomas Nelson on October 2000
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense
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It was an absolutely perfect day . . . until everything went absolutely perfectly wrong.
Kent Anthony is a brilliant software engineer who is cashing in on a brilliant career. He's finally living the idyllic life, far from thoughts of theft and murder and other kinds of horrible criminal behavior.
He's left his past far behind . . . or so he thinks.
Ted Dekker delivers a fascinating story of the almost perfect crime, interwoven with a tale of bittersweet love that is almost enough to save a soul. A story that will bring you face-to-face with a hidden world more real than most people ever realize; a world where the unseen is more powerful than anything seen.
Ted Dekker has written over fifty books and sold millions of copies, but back in May 2000 his debut novel was just one of a number of books sitting spine-out on the Christian fiction rack. It had some success. Enough that Word Publishing (now part of Thomas Nelson) kept him on through a loosely-connected trilogy. It wasn’t until 2004’s breakout Circle Trilogy that Dekker began to be a household name (at least in Christian fiction) and not until later thrillers like Boneman’s Daughters that Dekker reached the NYT bestseller’s list.
Heaven’s Wager is the first a rather loosely connected trilogy called The Martyr’s Song, with all three books exploring God’s providential involvement in human affairs—an early theme for Dekker. Ted has described the book as a retelling of the book of Job, with some significant changes. Rather than see if a God-fearing man who loses everything would curse God, Dekker explores if an agnostic who loses everything can come to love God. The result is a powerful, if sometimes simplistic and overly-wrought story about a man losing everything, gaining some things, then giving it up to gain his soul.
Kent Anthony is a computer programmer who’s long been at work developing a banking system called the Advanced Funds Processing System. It’s his ticket to wealth and success, and will hopefully revolutionize the way banking is done. Kent is all set to unveil the system to the bank bigwigs when he receives an urgent notice that his wife has fallen ill…and from there, Kent Anthony’s life falls completely apart. His boss steals all the credit. His wife dies. And that’s just the beginning.
Meanwhile, there is one person who understands—or at least perceive some of—what is going on behind the veil. Helen Jovic, Kent’s mother-in-law, begins walking while praying for Kent’s soul. Some of Dekker’s most insightful and incisive dialogue comes from Helen, though its occasionally clunky and melodramatic. As Helen pounds the doors of Heaven as Kent rushes towards the gates of Hell, only the grace of God can save him but it’s his own free choice to make. God called Satan’s bluff and accepted the challenge and the result of Heaven’s Wager depends on Kent Anthony’s decision.
On literary grounds, Heaven’s Wager is definitely a product of its time and intended audience. It’s darker than Christian fiction typically was at the time and the difficulty in writing that intensity but within the confines of Christian sensibilities at the time sometimes leads to some laughable dialogue. The pacing is slow and the overall story a bit bloated—fifty pages could and should have been cut in the editing process.
Theologically, I think (and I believe Ted Dekker himself would now agree with this assessment) that Dekker hits a little hard on the “everything happens for a reason” answer to the problem of suffering—a major theme in the series as a whole. Dekker’s exploration of suffering ends with “God redeems it for his glory” (a true statement) but also clings to “God caused this suffering for his glory” (a statement I do not agree with). Yet, it’s a product of who Dekker was at the time and a product of the audience he was writing for.
While Dekker’s certainly grown in his writing style and methods, this is by no means a bad novel. Compared to contemporary books in the genre, Dekker holds his own, hitting on deep themes such as one’s importance to God, the love of God, and the power of prayer. Ted’s a much different author now, but I have a fond place in my heart for these early novels. Like all of Dekker’s offerings, you can’t read it and be unchanged by it. This book will affect how you think about your faith.