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Karen Hancock
Bethany House Publishers, 393 pages

Karen Hancock
Karen Hancock graduated in 1975 from the University of Arizona with bachelor's degrees in Biology and Wildlife Biology. Along with writing, she is a semi-professional watercolorist and has exhibited her work in a number of national juried shows. Arena is her first novel. She, her husband, and their son, whom Karen homeschooled for eight years, reside in Arizona.

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Bethany House

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Suzanne Krein

Callie Hayes reluctantly joins her friend Meg in a psychology experiment described as providing "evaluation of and instruction in the decision-making process." The receptionist assures her that the experiment, an obstacle course, will be completed in a few hours.

Too late, Callie discovers that she cannot back out from the experiment. Angry, she refuses to listen to the instructions that will help her to complete the obstacle course. "I'll have no choice but to deposit you on-site, utterly unprepared," her instructor says. Before Callie can ask what this means, her world dissolves into nothingness. She "wakes up" in an alien world: the Arena.

The Arena is a frightening place filled with dangerous traps and evil alien beings. Callie's only hope to traverse the Arena and return to Earth is found in "the manual." This cryptic instruction book provides some readable information plus whole sections of pure gibberish. Callie learns from "the manual" that she is supposed to stay on the white road; leaving this path could lead to disaster. The white road is supposed to lead her to the safe havens, the Gates, and, eventually, to a way home.

Though Callie thinks she is following the white road, bad choices lead her down the wrong path. She meets up with other travelers, including Pierce, who saves her life from the harries and brings her to his ragtag group of friends. Callie is confused. Should she believe "the manual" and try to find the white road again or should she travel with Pierce and his friends who plan to find their own pathway to home? Who are the aliens who brought her to this place? Is the Arena intended for her benefit or to bring suffering to her and to the others?

As you travel along with Callie and her companions through the Arena, there is always an interesting twist or challenge around every corner. Each chapter leads you to want to read the next, because you have to find out what will happen to Callie and her friends. Just when you think you may get to catch your breath for a moment, something unexpected happens that leads Callie into another dangerous confrontation.

Arena is an allegorical science fiction story about making the right choices in life. Callie and the other travelers in the Arena face physical, mental, and spiritual challenges. Only the correct decisions along the way provide an exit back to Earth. Wrong choices can lead to pain, suffering, and death.

Reading Arena provides an entertaining experience with an added punch. I found that I was evaluating my own decision-making process as I watched Callie make good (and awful) choices. Callie's journey has a familiar ring to it that parallels the spiritual journey that many of us travel on.

In Arena, Karen Hancock's first novel, she succeeds where many others have failed -- she has placed human characters in an alien world where the unbelievable becomes totally believable. I'm looking forward with great anticipation to reading more of her writings.

Copyright © 2002 Suzanne Krein

Suzanne Krein is a free-lance curriculum writer with a life-long passion -- reading and writing science fiction, especially Christian science fiction. She lives with her family in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

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