Friends, it never ceases to amaze me how the truth of God’s word can suffuse our creative works and everyday lives when we bring him alongside us into it. I notice this particularly in story, and I think there’s a good reason for that. God used words to usher in creation. He spoke “Let there be . . .” and it was. Through the word of God we have light, earth, sky, and every living thing. In the New Testament, Jesus taught through words, using stories to illustrate God, his kingdom, and his relationship with us his children.
So it comes as no surprise that when storytellers welcome the Lord into their creative work, the truth and power of the Creator illuminates their words with light and life. My most recent experience with this came with reading a novel by Cathy McCrumb titled RECORDER.
Book 1 of this young adult science fiction trilogy follows a young woman who had been given to the government, known as the Consortium, at birth, into a system that conditions children with selective education and technological brain implants to serve as record keepers and watchful eyes on the civilians. They are called Recorders and are designed to be impartial, unemotional, and uniform.
The main character is on her first mission with a crew of civilians to retrieve data from an outpost that had suddenly gone dark two years prior, and she is determined to succeed. But she struggles to respond unemotionally to death and danger, fails to complete her assignment, and loses her connection to the only thing she’s ever known: the Consortium.
After a chaotic escape from the outpost (which involves explosions, giant cockroaches, and a serious creepy factor), this Recorder is faced with an identity crisis, twisted mysteries, and a dawning realization that the governing powers she always believed in might not be as well intentioned as she once thought.
This book is loaded with great characters and their dynamics, unraveling mysteries, nanotech, slow-burn romance, the eternal battle between tea and coffee, kindness sandwiches, and cats in space. But, all the fun and quirkiness aside, there are two things that stood out to me.
The first is the main character who, for the actual lack of a name, is simply called Recorder. She begins the story isolated from the people around her, despised and rejected by others for her association with a micromanaging and domineering government. Even so, when a threat arose while on the mission, she did not hesitate to help the people around her, to her own grave injury.
Is that not a picture of Christ’s sacrificial love for us?
Furthermore (that sounds real professional, doesn’t it?), throughout the meat of the story she struggles with social interaction and understanding others, accepting rejection but surprised by the kindness being shown her after her valiant efforts to save the crew. She is challenged over her faith in the Consortium and doubtful of her worth outside of it. She believes that her only value is within the Consortium, and without it, she is nothing.
And then my new-favorite space doctor says this:
“Some people say we evolved from the dust of stars. Others say we are uniquely formed by a divine being. Stardust or Creation. Either way, you are exceptional. You are the only one of you in all of space and time. You cannot be nothing.”—RECORDER
This speaks to one of my passions and an lie that many of us face. We’re told so often the untruth that we’re nothing, we’re not special, we don’t matter, we’re not worth anything—and that is one of the blackest of lies. These toxic statements fly directly in the teeth of what the almighty God affirms. God did not make nothing, he created out of nothing and made life and beauty where it did not exist before. Including every single person. Not one is without value, because he made everyone in his image. Genesis 1:26-27
Through word and actions, the crew affirm to Recorder over and again that she matters, and that she matters to them. Her sacrifice on the mission and her determination to help, her sincerity and humility, influences the people around her, and when she had no allies in the beginning, by the end she has a family on her side.
The other part of this story that stood out to me is a little more difficult to put into words. Concisely, anyway. In nature it’s just a simple exchange that recurs throughout the narrative, but I found it beautiful, endearing, and meaningful.
There is a character within this crew named Nathaniel Timmons, and he does not hate Recorders as a rule. This lack of prejudice allows him to see our main character with curious and unclouded eyes. He is kind to her, treating her like an actual person, and when she has episodes of trauma and panic, he is a steadying presence that takes her arms and says “Look at me.”
And she meets his eyes and says, “I am looking.”
And he tells her truths and comforting words of affirmation and unity, that she is not alone in the battle she’s facing.
This happens several times, and I love it because it reminds me of Jesus and his steady love. When we face difficulties and hardships in life and tremble, how often does our Savior take us in hand and say, “Look at me”? Is he not always urging us to look at him? To adjust our focus onto him instead of our struggles and suffering?
By fixing our eyes on Jesus, the impossibility of our trials fades against his sovereign power.
When we look at Christ and listen to what he says—that he loves us, he will not leave us, he is working toward our good and his glory, no evil will be able to pluck us from his arms—we can be reminded that noting we face is beyond his ability to help us through. We are not nothing. We are not alone. There may be darkness now, but joy is coming.
There are so many other good things one can see and take away from this story, but these are my two favorites, and after that bittersweet ending I am anxious to read the next two books in the series and see what happens!
Have you read RECORDER by Cathy McCrumb? What are your thoughts? (No spoilers, please!!) Or does this story sound interesting to you? I’m still tentative when it comes to science fiction, but so many people recommended this book to me that I gave it a shot, and I’m so glad I did! Just another example of how reading outside of your preferred genre can be an enriching experience.
What was the last book you read? What was the last one that moved you?