I have spent the past month or so re-reading Elizabeth Moon’s Vatta’s War series. The five-part series mixes economic realism with military science fiction with some interesting twists about biology. Mrs. Moon, a former US Marine who holds degrees in history and biology puts all of her skills to work in this excellent series.
I got through the last two works on audiobook shuttling back and forth to the family farm this Thanksgiving season. Each individual novel, as well as the novels in this series as well as her Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy has a pacing that is uniquely Moon. Moon’s novels start like a good soak in a tub, easing gently in without great drama or momentous event. But the tub turns out to be water and we are the frog put in to boil. Slowly turning up the heat plot twist by plot twist, I can think of two other authors who build so solidly to their saga’s climactic finish. Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera deserves praise here as well as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series. My regular readers will take note that I do not invoke the great one’s name lightly (sorry Mr. Butcher but I am talking about Tolkien).
The first book is slower than I’d like, and the second and third in the series are more my pace, but the last two books in the series, Engaging the Enemy, and Victory Conditions are hard to separate in my head. Every time I read through the series the pace has reached a point where I’m hurtling down the rabbit hole with no thought of England behind me. This is one thing that I have always loved about Elizabeth Moon, as slow as her stories begin the payoff comes in nearly novel-length rushes to a spectacular finish.
Surfing through Hulu Plus looking for something to fill in the last night, I came across a one-season series called Kings. The idea of a modern retelling of the King David story intrigued me. I read reviews that talked about the deeply powerful inspiration and how uplifting the series was (which proves how fallible I really am sometimes) and decided to give the two-episode pilot a try.
The idea of an alternate-reality drama was bold. I appreciated the size of the project creator Michael Green tackled when he sought to depict a powerful monarchy in a world with post-modern trappings and mechanisms. The visual designs were pleasing, and the music was nice.
I need to give a nod to NBC for excellent casting for the series. Ian McShane paired up with one of my favorite Native American actors Wes Studi to play the solid duo of King Silas (Saul) and General Abner. Christopher Egan did well as David Shepherd and having seen Sebatian Stan play the Mad Hatter in Once Upon a Time I was not surprised that he did an outstanding job as Jack Benjamin (Jonathan).
[Spoiler alert: pilot plot points revealed.]
Having touched on the positives of the series, the content is horrific. G. K. Chesterton once said that a good novel tells us about its characters, and a bad novel tells us about its author. An even better bit of insight into this series comes from 1 Corinthians 2:14 (ESV used here): “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
So, in the mind of someone who is literally incapable of understanding God’s ways, you would the things that make King David glorious warped and twisted, and even hated since godly principles are detestable to them.
The rot starts from the top. Silas/Saul is king because he had some butterflies land on him, not because he was anointed king by a prophet of God. Nature replaces God’s power to reveal his will and the accuracy of his agents right away. Jack/Jonathan isn’t a war hero, husband, and father. He becomes an unaccomplished closeted homosexual who spends his public life drinking and drugging. David doesn’t stand up to Goliath (a tank) because he trusts in God. He was just clever and loyal to his people. Saul wasn’t a relatively good king, he turns out to be a figurehead of eeevil corporations who funded his city.
I feel sorry for someone so morally corrupt and vile that the only way they can create drama is through a depiction of horrible, lying, cheating, evil people with semi-biblical names. The series might have been worth something if it hadn’t stooped to dragging heroes whose renown has lasted three centuries through the slime of American soap operas. Green’s earlier project, Everwood, had some decent points to make and was similarly well-casted. The total moral bankruptcy of the town’s characters took three seasons to become glaringly obvious, as opposed to Kings‘ pilot episode. Disgusting and disappointing, but that is the natural consequence of daring to bring bad morals into God’s truth. “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” John 3:20 ESV.
David and Jonathan are both heroes in God’s Word, honorable, faithful, loyal, brave, and strong. They love without sexual immorality, a lesson that more people of any gender or orientation would do well to learn.
David faced Goliath as an explicit act of faith, that since victory came from God it did not matter how large the enemy was.
Saul was in many ways a good king who went bitter and wrong later on, and instead of repenting or humbling himself before God he went to increasingly wicked steps to get what he wanted. Even so, David refused to raise his hands against God’s anointed king.
Lessons in faith, courage, brotherhood, valor, and fealty abound in the story. It is a pity that the things that have preserved our love of King David for three thousand years were not brought into the story by Mr. Green.
Kings is a travesty, but we can take a good moral from it, the same one Mary Shelly gave us so long ago. We must not tread (in this case trample) on God’s domain.