It has been fifty years since the death of C. S. Lewis and over seventy years since he introduced us to The Screwtape Letters. Wilson felt the fiftieth anniversary of Lewis' death was an appropriate occasion for a “Hell update.” It is the same war but the weapons and the tactics are different.
The style is a bit different from The Screwtape Letters, which were, well, letters. This novel is mostly descriptive narrative. Another difference between the two books is that this one covers the work of the devils over the seventy years since Screwtape and the church as a whole whereas The Screwtape Letters concentrated on a rather short period of time and one person being tempted.
So, this book is different in style, different in content, and different in emphasis from the one it says it is “in the tradition of.” I would not describe it that way. It is a valiant attempt but the style and content are so different from the original, I would not say it is in the same tradition. Same subject, perhaps, but not same tradition.
So the book covers the nearly seven decades from 1942 to 2007 (where the account breaks off). Crumblewit, the main character, says their aim is to undermine the attempt of Christians to bring love, peace, and justice to bear on world events and to carry out the mission entrusted to them by Jesus. One of their most successful ploys has been to distort Christian truths. They also discourage Christians from thinking, encourage getting ineffective people in places of power in churches, increase suspicion and hostility between denominations, prevent church members from actually doing anything, divert the energy of Christians to the political arena, get Christians to accumulate wealth, use Christian music to cause discord, get them distracted with dates of Christ's return, and generally keep Christians obsessed with their short stay in the material world.
This book is very informative as to how the devil has worked in the last several decades. For seniors, it brings back many memories. For younger Christians, it is a good introduction as to how the church has bounced around, succumbing to distracting movements and beliefs.
The Screwtape Letters is a hard act to follow. A Christian learns much about how the devil tempts Christians individually in it. This novel is more about movements and beliefs, in general, and not about personal or individual temptations (although Crumblewit does give some personal examples). This is not the best I've read “in the Screwtape tradition.”
Derek Wilson is a popular historian and the author of over 50 books. He has written and presented numerous television programs. He lives and writes in Devon, UK.
Lion Fiction (distributed in the U. S. by Kregel Books), 240 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.