(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The Arena is an investigation of how much some people have to go through to learn enough about themselves to make the changes needed to improve their lives. The protagonist, Callie Hayes, is an artist trapped in a world in which her friends and family believe that art can never be more than a fun hobby. Armed with an unwanted bachelor’s degree, Callie has been taking poorly paying jobs that bore her. For extra cash and from a desire to do something different, she agrees to join her best friend, Meg, and volunteer for a college psychology department experiment.

The experiment is merely a cover for aliens who are battling among themselves for influence over the galaxy in a place they call the Arena. After rejecting the advice of her experimenter, Callie is dumped rather unceremoniously into a hostile alien environment. Armed with a bag of small items and a manual describing how to leave the Arena, she begins a journey that will last more than a year in her life but less than half a day back on Earth.

Callie is unprepared to use the manual and unwilling to fully trust the aliens, so she tries to find her way out on her own. She fails and teams up with a man named Pierce, who has been in the Arena for five years. He has thrown out his own manual and seems very rough, but throughout the novel, he helps Callie and receives help from her in return. Together they find his old group of survivors and continue to search for the gate, which will let them out and allow them to return home.

The Arena is a complex place. Throughout, there are animals, planets, and people corrupted by their own desires and by the Tohvani, the enemies of the Aggillon, the aliens who kidnapped the earthlings. While the humans fight for a way out, they also seem to be fighting one another and themselves, suggesting that this battle is not so much between the aliens and the humans as it is within the individual men and women.

The Arena has...

(The entire section is 801 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

May, Stephen. Stardust and Ashes: Science Fiction in Christian Perspective. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1998. While older than Hancock’s Arena, this still provides a good overview of the state of science fiction and Christianity and could be used to compare Hancock’s work and earlier works.

Nelson, Marcia Z. “Karen Hancock: Fantasy Serving Truth.” Publishers Weekly 249, no. 24 (June 17, 2002): 523. Brief interview with Hancock about her philosophy and background.

Seed, David, ed. Imagining Apocalypse: Studies in Cultural Crisis. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000. Several articles that focus on different aspects of Christian science fiction, especially those that examine modern attitudes toward sex, science, and government.