Frank Peretti is one of those authors that astounds everyone who reads his work and yet remains obscure outside the circle of his following. This is truly odd considering his first novel obtained bestseller status and he continues to sell a staggering amount of copies with each book he publishes.
I remember first reading his Cooper kids adventure series, books about a family of Christian archeologists who get caught up in one odd tale or another. The first four books were available in my church library and were so easy to tear through, great reads! And then somewhere along the line, news came out that Peretti was releasing another four adventure books in the series. This was probably my first experience with a release date. I might’ve been in fifth or sixth grade at the time; it’s hard to say.
For fiction classified as Christian, Peretti has a real penchant for terrifying prose. The Door in the Dragon’s Throat brought shivers to my spine and made my hair stand on end, as did The Tombs of Anak.
At the time (early 90s), Peretti’s first two novels were still making waves. This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness were said to be game-changing novels, fresh and new approaches to the way Christian writers tackle the imagination. If anything, Peretti is certainly the best fiction writer who incorporates the Christian worldview since J.R.R. Tolkien. (Some people would say C.S. Lewis, but I think Peretti is a better fiction writer than Lewis, although none but G.K. Chesterton could surpass Lewis’ non-fiction).
Back to the point; Peretti’s full-length novels are considerable in length, and were said to be frightening, even to adults. (Some people compared him to Stephen King, though I think that’s an ungainly and disjointed comparison. Peretti is certainly a better writer than King. In literature, quantity cannot trump quality.) The idea of reading a book that long and terrifying was a little daunting at such a young age, and when you add in the expense of a full novel compared to my allowance…
About a year ago, I was perusing the used books section at a local Goodwill store and ran across a few Peretti novels for a few bucks each. Obvious purchases and my reading of his work resumed after more than a decade.
The Oath was the first to reach my nightstand and it thoroughly shattered my sleep schedule. A seventeen year-old novel, The Oath ties a dozen stories together into one twisted and tingling month of a terror one-hundred-twenty years in the making. Peretti tags the beginning of each chapter with long-aged documents, slowly revealing the scale and depth of the trouble befalling the small mining town.
An outsider has come to the mining town to find out what happened to his brother, torn to pieces by some creature. No one is quite willing to help, and as he pries further and further into the town and surrounding wilderness, he uncovers a history of terror and trials and control that challenges his very worldview. The menace that haunts everyone has begun to rise and claim victims.
I don’t want to give anything away, because Peretti’s sense of timing is perfect. The Oath grabs the reader, tantalizing with hint after hint, allowing the reader to put things together at the same rate as the protagonist. The effect is well worth the length and scope of the book and so often books over five hundred pages really don’t need to be more than three hundred.
His prose is driving and exact, and notably, he breaks a number of that traditional ‘rules’ of fiction writing. I dare anyone to find a problem with his use of adverbs, although it flies in the face of that standard ‘never-touch-an-‘ly’-adverb-wisdom.’ Peretti does a wonderful job of showing in vivid detail, and yet the reader is not bored by the ether of description, which can leave a reader wondering when anything is going to happen. The Oath is well balanced.
Finally, his characters are very different from each other and their unique personalities are crucial to the struggles in the plot, from the off-beat mechanic, to the town’s master, to the policewoman, to the wife of the man who owns the mining company. So much more could be said… just pick this book up and give it a shot, unless you’re already behind on sleep, because you won’t get much with this in your bedroom.