I never thought about being spied upon from the ceiling of my office, or when I’m in an elevator. After reading The Unseen by T.L. Hines, maybe I should.
My introduction to T.L. Hines’ novels was Faces in the Fire, a series of interconnected stories and characters that was, well, stunning in how he pulled it off. He’s often designated (even by his publisher) with a “Christian noir” of “noir bizarre” label. And there’s no question that his novels are not what you usually find in the “Christian fiction” section of the bookstore.
But they are humdinger stories, and force you to confront characters, narratives and issues in ways that few “Christian novels” do.
In The Unseen, Lucas is a young man in his 20s who has a habit, one learned from the time he was in an orphanage. He has become extraordinarily adept at maneuvering himself into tight spaces and then observing people, unseen. And while he observes, he creates stories about them, whole biographies of who they are and where they came from and their families.
He’s content to work as a dishwasher, paid under the table so there are no records. He lives about as transient lifestyle as one can without actually being homeless or a transient. He has no permanent address, but instead moves from forgotten spaces in the Washington D.C. Metro line and underground sewer system to abandoned buildings.
And that is his life, until he comes into contact with the Creep Club, a group whose members do what Lucas does but go far beyond, videotaping and packaging what they film unseen for their own amusement. Then a government agent enters the picture, and Lucas finds himself running for his life.
The Unseen is a strange story, but it’s a strange story that’s absolutely riveting. And while it is published by a Christian publisher, the “message” is not overtly Christian; in fact, it’s barely present. But it’s there, in the story, the theme, the characters and the action. The Unseen is written from a Christian perspective and worldview, but the perspective is not obvious.
And that may be T.L. Hines’ purpose. Tell a good story, and tell it well, and tell it in such a way that the reader says “what?” and wants to know more.