Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: The Ambition by Lee Strobel

The Ambition: A NovelWhen you pick up Lee Strobel's latest book, you might be wondering where the words, "The Case for..." have gone. Strobel, the best-selling author and former legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, has written a number of popular non-fiction books such as The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, and the list goes on. All of them have been well-received and extremely helpful books making the case for the truth of Christianity. But Strobel's newest book is a fiction novel.

The Ambition is a fast-paced legal thriller. Set in Strobel's old stomping grounds of Chicago, the story is one that immediately captures the reader's interest and keeps the pages turning. The mob and a murder case, corrupt judges, nosey reporters, and intrigue. All right. You're skeptical. "This isn't what Strobel's supposed to be writing; this isn't his thing!" Or at least that's what I thought. Honestly, I half expected this book to be... cheesy. But I read it and was pleasantly surprised. There was even some "wow" going on. "This is really good."

The Ambtion became one of those books that you don't want to put down. You wonder if the cynical journalist is going to expose some sort of corruption. You wonder if the megachurch pastor is the real deal or not. Will another one of my favorite characters get killed off? Okay, this review isn't intended to have any spoilers. Just know that there are some clever twists and turns in there.

As I read The Ambition I was wondering when I was going to get preached at. After all, this is Christian fiction, right? Isn't it supposed to have some sort of overbearing tone; some obvious message that it's shoving at me? Half way through I let that thought go. It's not that kind of book. But you do start to get into the characters' minds - you start to see how they think and feel. You see truths in the story. But the story isn't sacrificed. Then I remembered a quote by C.S. Lewis:
The difficulty we are up against is this. We can make people (often) attend to the Christian point of view for half an hour or so; but the moment they have gone away from our lecture or laid down our article, they are plunged back into a world where the opposite position is taken for granted. Every newspaper, film, novel and textbook undermines our work. As long as that situation exists, widespread success is simply impossible. We must attack the enemy's line of communication. What we want is not more little books about Christianity, but more little books by Christians on other subjects—with their Christianity latent. . . . It is not the books written in direct defense of Materialism that make the modern man a materialist; it is the materialistic assumptions in all the other books. In the same way, it is not books on Christianity that will really trouble him. But he would be troubled if, whenever he wanted a cheap popular introduction to some science, the best work on the market was always by a Christian. (C.S. Lewis - God in the Dock, emphasis mine)
That's what I see Strobel doing in this novel. He has produced an excellent book -- not one that preaches to the reader -- but one that is more subversive, with an underlying Christian worldview. And isn't that what Lewis's fiction has done? People are not only still reading C.S. Lewis's fiction, but they also happen to be watching his movies. Strobel has set out to create great fiction.

In sum, Lee Strobel's The Ambition is a great read. The pages turn fast, and the story is engrossing. After reading it I can say I would definitely recommend it to others or give this as a gift to a friend. Lee Strobel has nailed it pretty well on this one, and I look forward to more of this genre in the future.

It's official release is today in hardcover, audiobook, and Kindle.


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