Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review; The Skin Map

It is the ultimate quest for the ultimate treasure.  Chasing a map tattooed on human skin, across an omniverse of intersecting realities, to unravel the future of the future.

Kit Livingstone's great-grandfather appears to him in a deserted alley during a tumultuous storm.  He reveals an unbelieveable story: that ley lines throughout Britain are not merely the stuff of legend or the weekend hobby of deluded cranks, but pathways to other worlds.  To those who know how to use them, they grant the ability to travel the multi-layered universe of which we ordinarily habit only a tiny part. 

One explorer know more than most.  Braving every danger, he toured both time and space on voyages of heroic discovery.  Ever on his guard, and fearful of becoming lost in the cosmos, he developed an intricate code--a roadmap of symbols--that he tattooed onto his own body.  This Skin Map has since been lost in time.  Now the race is on to recover all of the pieces and discover its secrets.

But the Skin Map itself is not the ultimate goal.  It is merely the beginning of a vast and marvelous quest for a prize beyond imagining.  (From the back cover)

Before I start talking about the actual book, let me tell you one thing; this isn't all it's cracked up to be.  By the description, I expected a dangerous quest to recover all of the pieces of this 'Skin Map'.  Unfortunately, it didn't turn out that way.  Not to say I didn't like this book--I did--but I just wanted to warn you that the description is misleading.

Now, as for the actual book; the plot and characters were superb.  Especially the plot.  It was a unique book, to be sure.  I had never heard of these 'ley lines' before (in a real-world context, that is; I believe there were ley lines in Hero, Second Class), and the whole idea of a skin map, Omniverse, etc. was highly imaginitive.  The characters were relatable--although I didn't exactly feel a pang of sadness when one of the characters died.  That part could've been done better. 

And the writing?  As Lawhead has proved over and over, his writing is great and refreshing. 

And now for the cons.  It's not what Lawhead did--it's what he DIDN'T do.

First, I felt that the Skin Map could have been a longer book.  Sure, it fell just short of 400 pages, but the plot moved slowly and didn't go very far before the book ended.  In fact, I felt like I had gotten only into the introduction to these worlds Lawhead had created.  Now I know about ley lines, Omniverse, the Skin Map and its history, etc., but this book was more about a primitive coffee shop than an epic quest for a Skin Map.  No offense to Lawhead.  :)

Second, there was a surprising lack of, well, Christ in this book.  I saw several threads of religious thought that could be expanded in the next book, but there wasn't any of the amazing allegory that I found in 'In the Hall of the Dragon King' and the other books in that series.  I was disappointed by this. 

Third, (though this is rather related to my second point) I felt that I didn't really get any meaning out of this book.  Whereas books like Dragons in Our Midst have values, morals, and themes (not to mention Biblical truths), this book had a lack of them.  I just didn't find anything meaningful to take away with me.  Perhaps this will change with the next book--perhaps not.  But until then, this series isn't much more than an interesting adventure.

All in all?  If you don't mind slow plot--and coffeehouses--then you'd like this book.  It has a great plot and cast of characters.  But don't expect to bring much meaning back with you.

Rated 8.5 out of 10.


Seth said...

The thing is, you have to realize that in secular books your not usually going to hear a life-changing story. I don't think Lawhead or Thomas Nelson would claim this book to be an overwhelmingly 'Christian' book. It is meant only as a good story-though that's an entirely different topic.

Also, I see why he did all that he did with the coffee-shop. It all led up to a few big(er) things, I just think he could have made it shorter and expanded on other parts.

Squeaks said...

That's kinda a bummer. I was eyeing this one in the bookstore a week ago but didn't get it (my mom doesn't particularly like Lawhead's writing, although I must say the Dragon King series was EXCELLENT).

Well, perhaps the next one will be better. The cover-art and title are quite enchanting though.


♥Bleah♥Briann♥ said...

I love your blog... and I'm following!

I saw your closed poll to the left... my favorite fantasy Author... well on the Poll I'd have to say Bryan Davis... though C.S. Lewis is kinda unbeatable. Though Ted Dekker, is my favorite. And he's not on your list ;)

Bleah Briann @

Seth said...

I have to agree. Dekker owns.

Squeaks said...

What about Stephen Lawhead ?? XD Mind you, Jake just finished pushing aside one of his books lol (in a very gentleman-like fashion; good job at that), but still; he is a great writer. XD

I love Dekker's writing style BUT!! but...he just dwells a wee bit too much on the "dark" side of things for my liking. I can't even look at the cover art for the "Bride Collector" without getting chills up and down my spine :P (Ok, I'm exaggerating a wee bit).

Anyhoo, I'll scribble myself outta here :-) *hops away like a rabbit and then realizes we just escaped the 1000 year attack and straightens up to walk normally...can't let people get suspicious now*


{PS: I'm not a rabbit}

Jake said...

I'll have to agree with Squeaks here--Dekker gets a little too dark for my liking at times. I usually stay away from most of his thrillers (though Blink [of an Eye] is one that I like). His fantasy however, is excellent. As is his overall writing and uniqueness. :)

How do I know a rabbit didn't steal your computer, hm? ;) JK.

Seth said...

I'll have to completely disagree. I think that his edgyness does nothing but add to the story and the overall impact of the books. People have said that his books don't really don't do anything for the Kingdom-but I would argue that Dekker's books have impacted me(in a good way)-I would go as far as to say-more then any other book other then the Bible.

Jake said...


I agree that his books do things for the Kingdom. I immensely enjoyed the Circle Trilogy (possibly excepting Green), and I loved the allegory and story I found there. However, there is content in some of his books that I don't agree with--whether it be true of the world or not. There were some parts in Green that disgusted me and made me wonder why Dekker would write that sort of stuff.

Again, this is not to say I don't like Dekker's books--I do, most of them. :)

Squeaks said...

*spits like a cat* (cuz cats are cool) Looks like a debate? Hm, I'll steer clear :P

@Jake, back up when you said something about my computer being taken over by rabbits...not true. But when you added the "hm" I could swear you sounded (if words on a screen can sound) JUST LIKE Falon from WTB's The Door Within trilogy.


Jake said...

LOL. :) I rather like the phrase 'hm'. :D