Book Review: A.D. 30

A few months back, I was contacted by someone who offered me a free e-copy of Ted Dekker’s latest, A.D. 30: A Novel, as long as I was willing to write a review on my blog. My first thought was, “duh!”

I read the book before we left Nicaragua, but haven’t had the chance to post the review until now. Anyone who knows me or has been around these parts for a while knows I enjoy a good Dekker book. My favorites are (in no particular order):

I can now add A.D. 30 to that list (and no, I’m not just saying that so I’ll get more free books). Because the truth of the matter is that I haven’t enjoyed all of Dekker’s books. He has two fairly distinct styles: fantasy/adventure and crime/thriller. Oh, I guess he has also written some non-fiction books, and Tea with Hezbollah falls into that category. But anyway, I definitely prefer his fantasy/adventure books. I’ve read almost all of his books but his crime/thrillers often get a bit too dark and creepy for my taste. (Remember The BoneMan’s Daughters? Yeah… pretty creepy.)

A.D. 30 falls more into his fantasy/adventure category, although if you haven’t ever read any Dekker in the past, you would likely call this one historical fiction. The story is told by the main character, a young woman named Maviah. She lives in Arabia, where she has been outcast by her father, one of the most powerful Bedouin sheikhs. At the start of the tale, the year is A.D. 30., which means Maviah’s story occurs at the same time as another man we all know… Jesus of Nazareth.

Yes, at some point in the book Maviah meets Jesus, but it doesn’t happen how I thought it would. Dekker does a great job of keeping Maviah at the center of this story, to give us a picture of what someone living in Jesus’ time might have thought about him. Jesus’ words are taken straight from Scripture, but weaved into the text in such a way that the story flows effortlessly. You know how some Christian authors seem to just plop Scripture into their chapters just for the sake of keeping their books as “Christian” as possible? This is totally different. In fact, if you aren’t familiar with the verses quoted, you might not even realize they were quoted from another source at all.

Dekker’s book reminded me of another that offers an author’s take on a Biblical story. Last year I wrote about Francine Rivers’ Lineage of Grace, in which she retells the lives of several Biblical women with a historical fiction flavor. Dekker and Rivers have completely different writing styles, but the general idea is the same: to cast these characters in a more human light, so we might better relate to them and better understand the Gospel.

 “Are you quick to point out the failures of others?  I was, though I didn’t see it in myself... It was in my writing of A.D. 30  that I discovered just how blind I was and still often am.”  - Ted Dekker

Dekker tells it like this, “For ten years, I dreamed of entering the life of Jesus through story, not as a Jew familiar with the customs of the day, but as an outsider, because we are all outsiders today. I wanted to hear his teaching and see his power. I wanted to know what he taught about how we should live; how we might rise above all the struggles that we all face in this life, not just in the next life after we die.

I loved the chance to experience Jesus (or Yeshua, as he is called in the book), and many other Biblical characters, as a female living in that time. Dekker is an incredible story teller, so I was almost immediately drawn into the tale. I pretty much devoured it, actually. In the end, the best part for me was how it brought the Gospel alive in a new way, as I got an opportunity to hear Jesus’ words as one of his contemporaries might have, and then to consider how that applies to my own life today.

My only disappointment came in realizing that we have to wait for the next book (A.D. 33) to see how it all plays out.

One final comment: this really isn’t “Christian fiction” and therefore shouldn’t be ignored by people who generally dislike that genre. This book does not read as a piece of propaganda or sermon. Quite to the contrary,it comes across as a fictional exploration of certain known historical figures within a documented time in history. And Dekker tells a phenomenal story, period.