Book Review: An Accidental Abduction by Roderick Cyr
Disclaimer: I received this book as a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would review it.
Katy Byrd is from small-town Minnesota, and seeking a deeper relationship with Jesus and her Christian faith. She accompanies her father on a (“non-denominational” but later specified as evangelical) mission trip to Morocco to help out a struggling local church community. She get separated from her group and is kidnapped by terrorists.
Azir Ahmed was turned on to radicalized Islam in college, and has joined AQIM. Despite his admiration for some of their goals, he’s really not down with the terrorism part of being in a terrorist organization, and is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with their violent actions. When a foolish AQIM hanger-on kidnaps an American, Azir is assigned to guard the prisoner until the organization can figure out to capitalize on the situation.
While this book was self-published, the subject matter and treatment indicate that it’s meant for the Christian young adult market. The writer for this market faces difficulties beyond the normal ones facing a YA writer, since certain topics are off limits or required to be presented in a specified way–without, one hopes, turning off or boring the young readers who are the target market. Not everyone can handle this balance. I regret to say that this is not a very good book.
The positive: The basic plot idea is a good one; I like that the abduction is not planned, but a bungle by someone who only has a job in AQIM because his big-shot cousin was required to take him in.
I like that it’s not an “insta-conversion” story with the Sinner’s Prayer and an altar call, and a minor atheist character is not depicted as a sneering villain. And if you wish, you can read it as non-supernatural, with the placebo effect of prayer, and some amazing coincidences.
Less good: This book desperately needs an editor. The prose is clunky, there are spellchecker typos, and there is a lot of extra verbiage dedicated to telling, not showing. This is especially evident in the first chapter, which is a prime example of what TV Tropes calls “character shilling.” A secondary character spends most of the chapter extolling the virtues of the main character in order to impress the reader as to why they should like Katy. (Pro tip: starting by listing all the superlative qualities your heroine lacks does not make it not character shilling.)
It takes about a third of the book to get to the main plotline, and the early chapters feel padded. For example, there’s an attempt to build suspense with an untrustworthy-looking bus driver that goes absolutely nowhere–there’s not even a sigh of relief that he turns out not to be untrustworthy.
There’s also a weird political digression where the president of the United States is depicted as not being willing to help Katy because her father might possibly have voted against him in the last election, and only publicly identifying as Christian for political purposes. The book is very careful not to mention the president’s name or skin color, but since the story is set in 2015, the odds are slim it’s Joe Biden. (Shades of the “secret Muslim” canard.)
It’s also kind of weird that a cute white girl being kidnapped by terrorists somehow doesn’t cause a feeding frenzy by the American media–in real life, the parents would have been constantly harassed by opportunistic reporters and paparazzi. Here, only the local media are interested, and then only after Katy is partially rescued.
Fatal: Azir, a fervent Muslim, is gobsmacked by the concept of a merciful god that forgives sin. He’s never heard of such a thing before! This would seem to indicate that he has never read the Koran, the first verse of which describes God as merciful, and which goes on to describe God’s mercifulness and forgiveness of sins several times. Nor has he ever seen a list of the ninety-nine names of God, which include “the Merciful.”
Slightly less untenable is the treatment of Allah and the Christian God as two separate entities; from the Muslim point of view, they’re the same being, the Christians are just worshiping Him wrong. This should be even more evident as Azir and Katy are conversing in French, In that language, the word for both “God” and “Allah” is “Dieu.”
It’s also notable that Katy, who’s been spending her spare time studying the Bible, seems never to have read Job or Ecclesiastes, with their perspectives on the problem of suffering. Another odd bit is when her pastor uses his Christmas sermon to talk about how Jesus’ birth should influence lives in the present day, and this is treated as unusual, when it’s a standard pastoral topic that comes up every Christmas in most churches.
(There’s also a bit of gender essentialism when it’s just assumed that men going on a mission trip will be doing construction work while the women cook and clean, without checking to see if their skill sets lend themselves to that.)
So, no, I cannot recommend this book. It needs a total rewrite with a good editor to bring out the good book that is buried in there.