“This time she would break the rules. Even the ones she’d set for herself.”
By turns dark and intriguing, Nine by Rachelle Dekker explores what makes us human and how much choice, if any, we have in what we become. Through a trio of main characters, Dekker presents a narrative that is as timely as it is terrifying, given the current direction of science and military weaponry. Lucy, a young amnesiac, bursts into Zoe Johnson’s carefully-constructed and reclusive life, and the metaphorical house of cards comes crashing down. Part one contains third-person narration, but in part two some of the chapters are narrated in the first person by Lucy, a shift that adds depth and insight. Each girl’s backstory is revealed slowly as the story progresses, and their similarities are essential to the plot. Both have been brainwashed, in a manner of speaking, and their trauma draws them together: Lucy from scientific studies and Zoe from her mother’s cult. Agent Tom Seeley seemingly walks the fine line of double agent, but in this story trust is a quality that gets you killed.
While there is a discernible interplay between goodness and darkness (evil), manifested through a myriad of topics, I am conflicted as to whether I would classify this as a Christian novel. It is marketed as such, and while I can extrapolate a general Christian message from the overall content, I still do not feel quite comfortable labeling it as such. I personally don’t think that if a non-Christian were to pick up this book and read it, they would consider it a Christian work without being told so. There is no profanity, just allusions to people cursing, and none of the characters demonstrate any kind of faith in God that I could see. The bits and pieces of the former cult are the only religion demonstrated in the narrative, and naturally Zoe has a bitter and negative view of such, which was reinforced after leaving the cult. I think that with the storyline, Dekker could have really turned this into a fantastic Christian inspirational novel by the last third of the book, and I’m disappointed that it didn’t happen.
Delving into the shadowy realms of military experimentation, neuroscience, and ethics, Nine is not for the faint of heart. There are scenes of and descriptions of torture that I could definitely have done without; while I am not naïve enough to believe that such things don’t happen, a sentence or allusion to the events without details would suffice, for me at least. The topic of abuse in the story is handled better in this regard, and I think that the questions Dekker raises about ethics are important and need to be considered, especially as we are rapidly entering into a new era of digital dependency and artificial intelligence. As we move forward, we, like the characters in Nine, have to determine who we are and wherein our identity lies. Otherwise, we open ourselves up to being controlled by whomever our community—be it small or large—says we should. From a Christian perspective, we have two choices: follow Jesus or follow Satan: “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’” (John 8:12).
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell and was under no obligation to post a positive review. All opinions are my own.
My rating: 4 stars ♥♥♥♥