Iscariot is the forthcoming novel from Tosca Lee. It is due to be released on February 5th of next year. I was privileged to receive an electronic galley from NetGalley. (For my book-loving friends, this is a great way to read, and review, upcoming books).
I’ve made no secret of how much I like her work, and have even had her here on the blog for an interview. Her work resonates with me, and her work ethic inspires me (I’m told she engaged in a marathon 19,000 word writing session as the deadline for Demon: A Memoir encroached upon her).
Every writer, I think, needs a muse, and I’ve found a writer in Ms. Lee that inspires me to greatness. I may never achieve her level of success, never be more than a guy with a blog–and a dream–but at least I’ve got a star to shoot for (though I may crash back to earth). With that in mind, here’s my advice to those of you write: consider a writer you’d like to write for, give yourself an “ideal audience,” and shoot for that every time you sit down at the keyboard. I’ve picked Ms. Lee because she crafts gorgeous sentences, includes vivid descriptions, is a crackerjack at research, and very ably draws her readers in.
What does that digression have to do with her forthcoming book, Iscariot? For me, it represents a return to form, to the first person narrative of her earlier works, Demon: A Memoir, and Havah, the Story of Eve. If you have been following her career, you know she has been engaged in writing a trilogy with mega-bestselling novelist Ted Dekker, called the Books of Mortals.
As with most Dekker books, the series contains labyrinthine plots, amazing twists, global conspiracies, etc. worthy of the best of Ludlum.
Iscariot is nothing like that.
As I said above, it represents a return to form: the story is stripped (oh, it has its twists), the plot is simple, and the point of view is intimate. Ms. Lee makes perhaps the boldest choice I’ve ever seen a novelist make: she narrates the story from Judas’s perspective. To help put this into perspective, allow me a comparison from popular literature:
Author George R.R Martin is engaged in the telling of vast tale, encompassing many volumes, known as the Song of Ice and Fire. In this story, he has a character known as Jaime Lanister, who is the architect of the inciting incident that gets Martin’s story rolling. He is a character readers love to hate. Where Martin’s story differs from Lee’s is that his is a tale told from multiple points of view (there are alternating chapters). Jamie Lanister is not a point of view character until well into the series.
But when Martin introduces him as such, things change. The reader is forced to see things from Lanister’s perspective. At first it feels akin to having sympathy for the devil, but the monster quickly becomes a man. Lanister is human after all.
Likewise Lee, in her portrayal of Judas, forces the reader to see events through his eyes, and process life through his mind. Like George R.R. Martin, one of her great strengths as a novelist is the sympathetic portrayal of much-maligned characters. And it turns out that Judas Iscariot, arguably the most notorious traitor of all time, was just as human as you or I.
Not a cheery thought to contemplate, but a necessary one. For who among us, at one time or another, has not betrayed Christ?
The brilliance of this book–though it goes beyond the biblical narrative (as it must)–is that it sets Judas in the proper context of Israel’s history: his is an occupied state, the religious structure is oppressive, the Roman rulers are cruel, and crucifixion is all too common. People, Judas among them, are anxiously expecting a Messiah–one who will deliver Israel from her enemies. What they get–what he gets–is something, or Someone else entirely. For the curious, the story moves quickly from the setting of Judas’s childhood to the central relationship of the book: that of Judas and Jesus.
Yes, like Revenge of the Sith, the ending is known: Judas betrays Jesus. But what a journey getting there! It is nothing short of a tour-de-force! You will see Judas in an entirely new light.
Have you read any of Tosca Lee’s books? Will you read Iscariot when it releases in February?