If you are looking for a new author, here is one you might not have heard of/ decided to read. Although he was an associate of C. S. Lewis and Dorothy Sayers, Charles Williams for some reason has managed to escape the notice of many. This is a great shame. His novels are strong, brave, philosophical and complex. For now, though, I will write a little bit about my favorite, because this is my blog 🙂 For beginning with Charles Williams I suggest War in Heaven.
War in Heaven is about a war to protect the Holy Grail in modern (at Williams’ time) England. The battle takes place between an unlikely set of men called to be guards of the Grail, and a man much like Dr. Weston from C. S. Lewis’ ‘Out of the Silent Planet’. The best distinction here, however, is that Lewis’ character is scientific who is taken over by supernatural evil, Williams’ character starts with the knowledge that the supernatural exists, and seeks to take and use it to his own ends. This same character shows up in the book ‘Many Dimensions’ as well. This character uses different tactic and means to steal the Grail.
I don’t really want to discuss the plot or hash it out. I do want to comment on two things that are more generally related to Charles Williams than perhaps War in Heaven. These are 1) The archetype characters and 2) William’s treatment of the spiritual, the supernatural, as real, everyday experiences.
First, the characters. These characters are so solid, so true to the kinds of people you meet, that they are living breathing archetypes. (Like when the Archetypes get lose in The Place of the Lion also by Williams.) Characters are not exactly like real people, (Not like Mr. Micawber anyway) but the sum up people very well. In fact, I would swear that a character in War in Heaven is modeled after me (and my Mom would too) if it weren’t that I was born an 30-40 years too lat (At least) and an ocean away.
Second, and perhaps more important, is Williams introduction of spiritual warfare as humble. Unlike the spiritual warfare one finds in Frank Peretti and so forth, these spiritual warriors are not special. They live with flaws and as if God’s grace really is sufficient for them. Another import aspect is that sometimes they are required to do things (Like Ransom finally has to actually physically fight the un-man in Perelandra.)
I guess this is a bit short. My mind is a little pre-occupied with a few sonnets I am trying to write, to crush my opposition. But, if you want a new author, Charles Williams is a great place to start. Other than War in Heaven, I think All Hallow’s Eve, The Place of the Lion, Many Dimensions, and Descent into Hell, and The Greater Trumps, to be great… ok, that is probably most of them except Shadows of Ecstasy which, quite frankly, I will have to try again. I sort of felt I missed something the whole time. (Might have been the shadows… or perhaps I never saw the ecstasy….) I guess every author one reads probably has at least one book that has that effect on any given reader… (Like Chesterton’s Manalive…. Just never clicked for me)