The Circle Series: The Visual Edition of Black, Red, and White

I read Ted Dekker's original Circle Trilogy—Black, Red, and White—twice (once as an initial read, and once again after the final book in the series, Green was released). The first two times I read the series, I really loved it. I think all 4 books have a 5 star rating from me on Goodreads. When I found out there was a visual edition, I was excited to read it too, but I never saw it in stores. This year I finally just ordered it on Amazon and decided to revisit the series I had fallen in love with.

Summary

Thomas almost dies in our world and wakes up in "other Earth" or a future Earth where good and evil are manifested in the physical and mankind hasn't eaten the forbidden fruit (so to speak) yet. After this moment he crosses between that reality and our reality taking knowledge from both worlds to try to save the other.

What I (Still) Love

The concept is pretty intriguing. I gravitate toward Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Dystopian/Apocalyptic and Historical Fiction. The Circle combines elements from most of those genres: you have time travel and mutating viruses, a future earth that is closer to ancient times than modern times, physical embodiments of spiritual concepts (good, evil, and even God), etc. There's a lot to get excited about and a lot to keep you glued to the pages. That doesn't change in the visual novel. Seeing the visual edition is much thinner than the original, I thought I'd miss whatever was taken out, but I'm left to believe the only thing cut from this edition was description. I didn't feel like I missed anything or that the story suffered.

What I Disliked

After reading the original, I don't think I had anything bad to say, but adding images changed that.

Everybody is White

First, everyone in the book is white except one random person who maybe says 2 words the entire trilogy. From a general stance, it says a lot about how the author views the world and shows how deeply white supremacism is embedded in people who claim to be Christians. The largest ethnic group in the world is Asian. Brown people out number white people by a very large margin, so why does Mr. Dekker's "perfect" world only have white characters? Wouldn't most people construct a perfect world with perfect racial harmony? I imagine it be comparable to Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, where the king was white, the queen was black, and the prince was Asian, or to a slightly more sensible extreme, Still Star-Crossed which featured blacks and whites on both sides of the Romeo and Juliet story (though at least parents seemed to match the race of their children). At the very least, I would expect a cast like The Fast and the Furious. Yet, page after page, it's just white people.

White Equals Good

I suspect Mr. Dekker only put white people in his story because he relied heavily on the use of black equals evil, white equals good in the story. The first glimpse of this is the contrast of the evil Shataiki, black bats who represent Satan and the fallen angels, compared to the Roush, white bats who represent angels. Again, he creates a black forest to house the black bats and this represents evil. The good forest fortunately isn't white, which may be why the clear dichotomy didn't bother me on the first read through.

The addition of pictures shows Mr. Dekker's imagining of God (that's a whole 'nother problem we'll get to later) as a white boy, a white lion, and a white man. While Christ is portrayed as a lamb, God is described as being like bronze multiple times. Bronze is not white. Furthermore, God created man in His image and those people were not white. If Adam and Eve were both white (as Mr. Dekker portrays his version of the "first man"), the only way black people could exist would be for God to step in a create black people at random. Conversely, the genome of all races is contained within the African "race." Two black people can easily have albino children. Furthermore, every time God places a curse on people (translated as leprosy), their skin turns white, not black.

What's worse is that Mr. Dekker portrays the diseased (called Scabs) who are meant to represent nonbelievers as more ethnic. The leader of the Scabs and his general, randomly change their name to Qurong (looks Asian) and Martyn (Ukrainian origin) from Tanis (Greek origin) and Johan (Swedish/Dutch origin) respectively. Their hair is depicted as though it is in dreadlocks, which magically goes away when they are essentially baptized. I get the concept that if one doesn't bathe (which is what separates the Scabs from the members of the Circle), their hair may get oily and begin to clump together. However, once the members of the circle stopped bathing daily in the final third of the trilogy, why didn't their hair start to lock up? Regardless, the issue wouldn't be so glaring if the members of the "good" team had diversity. They even call the "good" people albinos...

Depictions of God

This time around, especially since there are literal images, I felt a way about the fact that Mr. Dekker created a being who is supposed to represent God. Reading that God is a lion (like Aslan of The Chronicles of Narnia) doesn't really throw you because God is the Lion (and the Lamb). It's an abstract representation, and while I'd still caution people not to get too carried away (like the Israelites with the golden calf), it doesn't feel so much as putting a face to God. Depicting Him as a boy and as a man, is very different and I didn't like it. That didn't sit well with my spirit. I would have liked the embodiment of God be left as an audible voice that isn't seen.

The Depiction of Good and Evil

We already hashed out my issue with color associations to good and evil, but this book also plays on the idea that evil is ugly and good is beautiful. Yet the Bible tells us Satan was the most beautiful angel and that he can be transformed into an angel of light. I think this trope is overdone, but more importantly misleading. It teaches that evil is obvious because it is repulsive, when actually the true deception (the book refers to "the Great Deception") is that things that appear beautiful are actually poisonous (think about most colorful things in nature).

Logical Problems

I'm not sure how I missed this the first time I read the books, or perhaps I saw it but it didn't bother me, but there are three major questions I had at the end of the series.

First, why were people in our world connected to different people in the other world? Thomas is himself in both worlds. Rachelle being linked to Monique seems some what reasonable in the beginning because Thomas is supposed to pretend to rescue Rachelle in her world, and he really is supposed to rescue Monique in our world. However, after that, the connections seem rather contrived for convenience.

Second, considering these weird connections, why are some injuries/deaths also connected but not all of them? Rachelle dreams she is Monique, though we never see evidence that Monique dreams she is Rachelle. Yet, when Rachelle dies in one world, it seems that Monique also dies. Thomas, on the other hand, dies or receives fatal wounds multiple times in our world. Sometimes those wounds cross over and he is healed in both worlds. However, in two instances, he dies in our world but is still alive in the other world. Why didn't he die in the other world too? This link isn't really explained and seems random if everyone can be connected to person in each world.

Finally, the blank book is used to bring Thomas and Monique of our world back to life. Thomas could have undone the virus all together. He could have written a cure into the right hands. He could have stopped himself from blabbing about it. There are so many things he could have written that would have made the reality in our world resolve much quicker. Sure, we can blame it on the fact that he wrote it in a hurry while preparing for battle, but it seems like this could have been handled better.

Would I Recommend

I don't know how I feel about the recommendation. From a content standpoint, I think I would still recommend the original series (with caution), however I can't get over the fact that the author envisioned his whole "perfect" world with only white people in it. That makes me hesitant to suggest anyone should spend their money supporting him. I guess I recommend the original if you find it in a library or already own it. I don't recommend the illustrated version at all.

References

  1. "Martyn". Behind the Name; visited January 2020
  2. "Tanis". Behind the Name; visited January 2020
  3. "Johan". Behind the Name; visited January 2020

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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