Thursday, October 17

Outlaw by Ted Dekker

There are places on earth that are so removed from modern civilizations that to visit them would feel like stepping back in time. These are places where the laws of the jungle rule and the people are fractured into tribes. Modern technology is usually glimpsed from afar and usually seen to be the work of evil spirits or gods. Julian (Julie) Carter, a young woman from Georgia, is thrust into the heart of such a place after a savage storm pummels the boat she is on.
And that’s not the worst part. 
Her son, Stephen, is swept with the sea, lost to the crashing waves, while Julie is pulled on shore by the natives. She is taken captive, her life on the line unless she agrees to bear a son for one of the princes. Then she finds that her son may still be alive and is the same island she is. Julie risks her life to save him. Stephen becomes known as Outlaw, and he may be the only person who can rescue his mother.

Ted Dekker lived many years of childhood in Indonesia with his parents, who were missionaries. In many interviews Dekker speaks of the spiritual darkness that resides in the jungles and which he often uses to influence his own writing. In Outlaw, we get an even more direct look into the jungle. In many ways, Outlaw feels very real. The tribe and the customs they follow feel pulled from real life, which they probably are. The setting is easy to imagine and I could feel Julie’s difficulty in adapting to such a world.
For all of the depth found in the world, the story does not contain equal depth, and in many ways feels disjointed. Julie starts out as an interesting character, and Dekker sets her up well. However, after some time as a prisoner the book spends too much time going over the same thoughts in her head without much change. Several chapters and scenes blended together and were highly repetitive.
Roughly two thirds of the way through the story shifts. While I was expecting a small shift, the actual transition felt very jolting. The shift also moved the character focus and lost sight of some of the characters who were getting to be the most interesting. Pulling away from those characters caused the story to lose some of the momentum it had been gathering, and I was really pulled out of the story. On the positive side, once the story shifts, the pace picks up too. Up until this point, the story seemed to meander.
Once fully introduced, I found Stephen to be a very weak character. I thought Julian was interesting, though not fully developed, but her circumstances kept her story interesting. A lot of Stephen’s scenes were sort of boring and I found myself taking more frequent breaks while reading. The biggest problem, though, with Stephen’s part of the story is the spiritual elements. The theme of the story reads awkwardly, with the physical body being referred to as a ‘costume.’ While I think I understood what Dekker was trying to get at, it felt forced into the story. This theme also led to some supernatural scenes that were even more jarring and didn’t seem to fit in the world Dekker had been creating.
At the end, Outlaw was only a fragment of what it could’ve been. The basis of the story grabbed my attention, and with a bit more work and less repetitiveness, Julie’s story could’ve been more engaging and personal and the rough transition in the main storyline really jars the narrative. I really wanted to like it, and the story has promise, but I didn’t feel that it lived up to that promise.
I received this book free from Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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