Published by Thomas Nelson on January 2006
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense
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When a stranger named Marsuvees Black appears in Paradise, he brings with him a message of hope and love. Or is it death and hate? Perhaps neither - perhaps both. He seems to know too much about the town's many unspoken secrets, and he himself holds the greatest secret of them all. As black clouds and sandstorms envelop the town, it becomes almost impossible to get in or out. It quickly becomes apparent that Paradise is being isolated for a reason. But why?
Wanna trip, baby?
Marsuvees Black’s catchphrase might as well serve as the tagline for Dekker’s wild thriller. Hey, Black may be the villain of the story, but in 2006 when Dekker brought Showdown to the Christian market, he was offering to them a Gospel that made them cringe just a bit. Little bit of Grace and Hope, little bit of shaking up the CBA, little bit of portraying evil as truly evil and painting it with dark and black brushstrokes. Dekker, was, in essence, asking CBA publishers and readers if they too wanted to trip.
Showdown was darker than any other CBA fiction at the time and when it was first released, one review called it “long on fiction and short on Christianity” while another called it “not at all for Christians.” This mirrored some of the criticism Dekker received from publishers when shopping it around. It was “too much like Stephen King and not enough like Beverly Lewis or something like that,” Dekker writes. But the book becomes its own apologist in the first forty pages. Through the voice of his characters, Dekker writes:
“How dare a child of God look away from the pain of evil—doing so undermines the grace that conquers evil. Of course we don’t sin for the sake of grace, but neither do we sweep evil under a rug and pretend it doesn’t exist” (p. 38).
Showdown begins with Marsuvees Black and ends with…well, you’ll have to guess. Things begin to unravel in Paradise, Colorado, when the polyester-clad Black strolls into town like a charismatic urban cowboy preacher. With his theatrics—and a bit of hallucinogenic sludge—he has the town eating out of his hand, offering them a salvation that comes through letting their depraved passions run free.
Unbeknownst to the town below, a monastery sits nestled in the mountains. And it too is coming apart at the seams. Project Showdown was meant to change the world by raising thirty-six extremely gifted children in isolation and faith. It would be a test to see if an unadulterated faith really could move mountains. But evil was always an option and thirteen year old Billy has chosen that option. His actions, along with the nature of the monastery, present more of a threat than almost anyone at the monastery actually knows.
Showdown is a fast-paced thriller with layers of symbolism heaped into a redemptive story. At times, the symbolism outweighs the plot’s realism, meaning that Dekker’s story, while obviously supernatural, doesn’t always seem believable even within the story. But that’s minor. At the heart of Showdown is the story of redemption writ large for the town of Paradise. While it would have been nice to have had more depth in the characterization of Paradise’s residents, enough is given for readers to get how Black changes them. And last of all, there’s Marsuvees Black, one of the quirkiest and most fun villains I’ve ever read. You can tell Dekker put a lot of himself into it, and the result is an excellent read.
The story continues in Saint.
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