Arena

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Overview

A journey she did not choose will test her courage and change her life forever

When Callie Hayes agreed to participate in a routine psychology research experiment, she had no clue she'd find herself plunged into a terrifying world where a battle rages between good and evil. With limited resources and only a few cryptic words to guide her, she must unravel the mysteries shrouding her only route of escape or risk succumbing to the deadly ...

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Arena

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Overview

A journey she did not choose will test her courage and change her life forever

When Callie Hayes agreed to participate in a routine psychology research experiment, she had no clue she'd find herself plunged into a terrifying world where a battle rages between good and evil. With limited resources and only a few cryptic words to guide her, she must unravel the mysteries shrouding her only route of escape or risk succumbing to the deadly deception of the Arena.

Multiple-award-winning author Karen Hancock leads readers on a mesmerizing journey as her compelling characters navigate the deadly terrain of a hostile world in this repackage of her acclaimed debut novel.

"Through vibrant description and well-paced action, Karen Hancock creates a compelling world of both horror and hope. Arena gives Christian fantasy lovers something to cheer about."
—Brandilyn Collins, bestselling author of Eyes of Elisha

"When other books are long forgotten and out of print, I believe people will still be reading Arena. It's destined to be a classic."
—Rene Gutteridge, author of Ghost Writer

"An allegory for the third millennium! If you liked Pilgrim's Progress and The Matrix, then you'll love Arena."
—Randall Ingermanson, co-author of Oxygen

"Arena is a wonderful and clever allegorical tale with all the excitement of good science fiction."
—Judith Pella, author of Written on the Wind

"
Clever, creative and full of non-stop action, Arena is a wonderful introduction to new writer Karen Hancock. Don't miss the opportunity to wrap your mind around this fascinating book."
—Gayle Roper, author of Summer Shadows and Spring Rain

"Karen Hancock's Arena sets a new benchmark for contemporary allegory—throughly imagined, intelligently written, and as vivid as last night's unsettling dreams. Well don!"
—Kathy Tyers, author of the FIREBIRD trilogy

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
There are disappointingly few good SF novels for the Christian market, and Hancock's intense debut is an excellent though edgy contribution to the genre. Callie Hayes is a frustrated artist with a colorless life; she earns minimum wage raising rats for laboratory use. When she volunteers for a seemingly harmless psychology experiment, she's unexpectedly thrown into a frightening and alien world. The narrative is a loose allegory of the Christian life: provided with a "field manual" (the Bible), Callie must navigate the "Arena" to return home. She hooks up with Pierce Andrews, and together with a ragtag group, they battle the mutant "Trogs," who delight in raping, torturing and devouring their victims. However, Elhanu (Christ) soon appears in disguise to help. Some CBA readers may be disturbed by the novel's many rapes and attempted rapes, as well as its occasional stomach-turning descriptions (e.g., human bones with the marrow sucked out). Hancock's characters struggle believably with sexual feelings and passion, something that's often handled poorly or ignored in CBA fiction. Characters are multidimensional, although one borders on caricature (SF 's typical buxom, long-legged, weapon-brandishing blonde), and the sporadic Scripture verses seem out of place. To her credit, Hancock admirably dashes most of the reader's preconceptions about the plot as the story progresses through a series of twists, turns and well-paced developments. If this book is any indication, the future should be bright for this promising novelist. (May) Forecast: Non-CBA booksellers should be able to hand-sell this one to SF readers who avoid Christian fiction as a rule. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Callie Hayes grudgingly agrees to participate in a psychology study as moral support for a friend. However, frightened by the examiners' secrecy and evasiveness (one vanishes before her eyes), she tries to escape but finds herself cast into the Arena, a testing ground for participants of the study. Armed with only a guidebook and minimal supplies, she is soon forced to trust the enigmatic Pierce, a man who claims to have spent the past five years in the Arena. As Callie journeys toward the Gate, supposedly her ticket out, she learns more about the mysterious Benefactor conducting the test and uses her developing faith in him to find the way home. However, this path is laid with false trails, traps, and false messiahs eager to destroy Callie and the friends she makes along the way. Hancock's first novel is an allegorical blend of fantasy and sf depicting the tests a soul faces that strengthen or destroy belief in God. Hints of the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max surface, along with the sense of climbing through the wardrobe into C.S. Lewis's allegorical Narnia. A classic in the making for the modern era, with appeal for fans of Lewis and Kathy Tyers ("Firebird Trilogy"), this is required for all collections. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764226311
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/1/2002
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 341,778
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Karen Hancock won Christy Awards for each
of her first four novels—Arena, The Light of Eidon, The Shadow Within, and Shadow over Kiriath. She and her husband reside in Arizona. Visit her website at www.kmhancock.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Called

"If you seek Him, He will let you find Him."

1 Chronicles 28:9

Chapter 1

"They won't be taking blood or anything, will they?" Callie Hayes looked up from the clipboard in her hands to the dimpled youth behind the receptionist's counter.

"Our physical evaluations are noninvasive," he assured her. "Completely painless."

"For goodness' sake, Callie," Meg Riley protested beside her. "It's only a psychology experiment. Why are you giving him the third degree?"

"I want to know what I'm getting into this time." Callie pushed slipping wire-rim glasses back up her nose as she flashed an accusing glance at her companion.

Meg was petite, freckled, and green-eyed, her face framed by chin-length black curls. She wore a white spaghetti-strap T-shirt with blue shorts, and she'd been Callie's best friend since fourth grade. Together they'd endured adolescence, the divorce of Meg's parents, a two-year obsession with Zane Grey novels, high school, and college. After graduating from the University of Arizona four years ago, they'd both settled into a holding pattern—Meg waiting for a teaching position at one of the Tucson school districts, and Callie just waiting. It was through Meg's temporary job with the university's Psychology Department that she stumbled onto the world of the paid guinea pig. "Easy money," she dubbed it.

But Callie discovered there were reasons guinea pigs got paid.

"Thirty dollars," Meg had promised last time, "and all we have to do is lie in the sun for a few hours."

Ha! It was bad enough having strangers smear squares of sunscreen on her bottom and peer at them every fifteenminutes, but when the local news crews showed up, Callie nearly died of embarrassment—and swore she'd never let Meg talk her into any such thing again.

"This isn't like the sunscreen business," Meg assured her. She turned to the receptionist. "We had one bad experience, and now she's paranoid."

The baby-faced youth nodded. His nameplate read Gabe, and though he looked like a high schooler, Callie guessed he was a college freshman.

"Ask as many questions as you like," he said. "I'll answer anything that won't affect the integrity of the experiment."

Callie frowned, fingering the end of the thick red braid that hung over her shoulder. "No drugs?"

Gabe's blue eyes widened. "Of course not! As our flyer says, we offer evaluation of and instruction in the decision-making process. There are absolutely no drugs."

"So what do we have to do for the fifty dollars?"

"You'll be negotiating an obstacle course and—"

"Obstacle course?" Callie looked up from the waiver. "That won't involve heights, will it? Rope climbing, that sort of thing?"

"Good grief, Cal," Meg cried. "It's not boot camp."

"Just let the man answer, okay?"

"It is on the ninth floor," Gabe said. "Are you acrophobic?"

"Only once I get to the tenth floor." She laughed nervously.

"Maybe we can help with that."

"I was just joking." The last thing she needed was another bout with a shrink.

Gabe shrugged. "Well, we've had good success with phobias—and fear in general, for that matter."

"See?" Meg's short dark curls brushed Callie's shoulder as she leaned close. "It's not like that other thing at all. In fact, it might even give you an excuse to miss your sister's birthday bash tonight. Unless you think the Mr. Right she's got for you this time really will be Mr. Right."

Callie snorted. Her sister, Lisa, moved in an alien world—upscale, fashion-fixated, and socially saturated. Lisa's Mr. Rights were inevitably lawyers or MBAs, all acquaintances or co-workers of her husband's. Expecting another version of Lisa, the men were always disappointed when they met her short, dull, tongue-tied little sister.

Callie detested the whole scenario. And the possibility of having an excuse for missing the affair was a powerful incentive. "How long will it take?" she asked Gabe.

"Not more than a few hours if you follow instructions. We do ask that you commit to finishing the experiment, however."

"And we won't have to do anything embarrassing or improper?"

He looked amused. "Only if you choose to."

"Come on, Cal," Meg murmured. "You said you'd do this."

"Oh, all right." Callie signed the waiver and handed it over. It's only for a couple of hours, she consoled herself. And who knows—maybe I will gain new and powerful insights. Maybe I'll learn how to say no to Lisa. Maybe it'll even turn my life around like the flyer promises. There's no denying it could use some turning around.

Four years out of college, she was still making minimum wage raising rats for biology experiments. She still lived in a rented apartment, still had to endure her mother's lectures about finding a man and getting focused, and still wasn't any closer to doing what she really wanted to do—paint. Unfortunately that was something both her mother and sister considered completely unacceptable. A career in art was too unreliable. Worse, her deadbeat father was an artist—when he wasn't following the horse races or losing his money in Las Vegas—and she didn't want to be like him, did she?

At her mother's insistence, she had gone into pre-med. But she was not accepted at med school after graduation—much to her relief—and thus far the only thing her science degree had turned up was the rat-raising job. A job that somehow spilled from part time into full and consumed all her energy, so that little art got done, and she stayed where she was, trapped, frustrated, and waiting for a miracle to set her free.

Gabe told them to go on up and indicated an elevator panel in the textured beige wall beside the desk. Meg hesitated, looking uncertain, then leaned over the counter. "Alex Chapman was supposed to meet us—"

"Yes. He's waiting upstairs."

As they entered the elevator Meg nudged Callie's arm. "He's waiting for us! Did you hear?" She fluffed her black curls and groped in her purse for a breath mint. "Do I look okay? What am I gonna say?"

"Hello usually works." Callie tried not to think of the dark well of space beneath her feet, pushed away thoughts of cables snapping and cars plummeting. The last thing she wanted was to have an attack here.

"But what about after hello?" Meg persisted.

"You never had any problems talking to Jack."

"There's a light-year of difference between Jack and Alex. Wait'll you see him, Cal. He is so gorgeous."

"So you've said. Many times."

"Have I?" Meg giggled.

Callie watched the six blink out and the seven appear over the door. Uneasiness churned in her middle. She was okay up to the seventh floor, but after that, things got dicey. Floor-level fear was a fairly common manifestation of acrophobia, but because it didn't match the stereotypical fear of heights, it was harder for others to relate to. You were expected to freak out when you looked out a lofty window or stepped onto a rooftop observation deck, and most people nursed enough of their own latent acrophobia to sympathize. But falling into a full-blown panic just because the numbers changed on an elevator panel? Even she knew it made no sense.

Not that it mattered. Above the sixth floor, she got jittery. And above the ninth ... STOP it! Don't think about it!

"Frankly, I think you were an idiot to return Jack's ring," she said to Meg, desperate to distract herself. "He's a good guy, and he loves you."

Meg gestured dismissively. "Jack's even more predictable than you are. He's a stick-in-the-mud. I want some excitement."

"Excitement." The seven gave way to an eight. "You have lost your mind."

Meg grinned. "You mean my heart."

"You don't even know the man."

The eight changed to a nine, a chime pinged, and the elevator opened at the end of a gleaming, door-lined corridor. On the ninth floor.

Don't think about it. Everything's fine.

She followed Meg into the hallway, smelling the pleasant crayon scent of the floor wax and feeling abruptly disoriented. Hadn't the elevator faced across the building's width when they'd boarded it?

The dark-haired youth awaiting them distracted her from further musing. This must be the famous Alex—the handsome-as-a-Greek-god, I-die-a-thousand-deaths-each-time-he-looks-at-me real reason Meg was here. A graduate teaching assistant for Dr. Charis's Psych 101 and a doctoral candidate in the psychology of the paranormal, Alex was set to receive his degree in less than a month. Meg figured she had to make a connection today, or forget him.

Though Meg had billed the guy as movie-star caliber, Callie found him unexceptional. Dressed in a white tunic and slacks, he was of average stature, with glossy black hair and dark, long-lashed eyes. His face was open and friendly, but hardly stunning. Gabe, the receptionist, was better looking.

He did have a nice smile.

"Meg! Great to see you. And you brought a friend!"

As Meg introduced them Callie had to admit he was a likable guy, one of those people who instantly made you feel at ease.

"We really appreciate what you're doing here," he told them. "Without volunteers like you, our project would be nothing. I hope you'll find it worth your while." He motioned down the hall. "Shall we get started?"

"So what is this obstacle course like?" Callie asked as they walked.

"I'm afraid I can't tell you," Alex replied. "The experiment demands that all participants begin with the same level of ..." He smiled at her sidelong. "Well, ignorance."

"You mean we have to go into this blind?"

"More or less."

Alarms went off in her head. Red lights flashed around images of experimenters hovering over her posterior and TV reporters aiming large-lensed cameras.

"I hope the obstacles aren't tires and ropes," said Meg, "because we're hardly dressed—"

"Oh, we'll provide appropriate apparel."

"You mean it is tires and ropes?" Callie asked, aghast.

Alex laughed but wouldn't commit either way.

He led them to an L-shaped room where three people waited in white plastic chairs lined against peach-colored walls. A picture window dressed with vertical blinds—thankfully closed against the morning sun—filled the left wall. Callie took care not to look at the window and concentrated on following Meg and Alex to the counter. There a boyish Asian in a gray-yoked tunic gave them clipboards with medical forms to fill out, after which they were called to the examination room at the back. Callie went first, leaving Meg in happy conversation with Alex.

The exam was decidedly unorthodox. Instead of using blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, and blood vials, the lab tech, a handsome, muscular youth named Angelo, pressed her hand against a jellylike plate and flipped a switch.

"This is pretty fancy equipment," she exclaimed as the plate vibrated beneath her palm.

"Takes fingerprints, temperature, blood pressure, and blood chemistry all at the same time," he boasted with a grin. "State of the art. Now please step up onto this disk."

She complied, looking around curiously. "It must be a pretty physical obstacle course if you have to examine us first."

"Just follow the instructions, and you'll be fine. You need to put your jewelry and such in the bowl there." He gestured to a steel receptacle sliding out of the wall. "Glasses, too."

As Callie deposited watch, earrings, and glasses in the bowl, Angelo stepped into a cubicle across the room. Then a low hum sounded above her and a studded circular plate descended from the ceiling, stopping well above arm's reach. She heard some clicks, and the hum changed pitch. Abruptly, ribbons of multicolored light swirled around her, the incongruous scent of warm taffy tickling her nostrils.

"My goodness! What is this?"

"Organ scan," Angelo called from his booth. "Relax."

Again the ceiling plate clicked and whirred. The taffy scent faded, and now a tingle burred through her body like a tiny whirlwind. It stopped a moment later, and the humming ceased. As the lights faded Angelo emerged from his controls. "You're the picture of health," he said with a grin. "I'd guess you're a jogger."

"I do my share. Would you have disqualified me if I wasn't in good enough shape?"

"Well, if you had a bad heart or something, we'd have to address that," he said, helping her down from the raised disk. "But you don't."

He gave her a cream-colored jumpsuit and sent her off to a changing booth. Stitched with pockets and zippers, the suit was fashioned from a fine, buttery fabric that seemed unlikely to withstand the rigors of an obstacle course. Though she felt silly wearing it, it was very comfortable.

Only one person remained in the waiting room when she returned—a thin man seated by the hall doorway whose open stare made her even more self-conscious about the jumpsuit. Keeping her distance from the window, Callie sat as far as she could from the pointy-chinned stranger. But she'd no sooner settled when, to her chagrin, he got up and sat one chair away from her, regarding her with an almost leer. "You here for the experiment?"

Suddenly aware that even the Asian receptionist had left his post, she nodded and looked around for a magazine. There were none.

"Better reconsider," he said. "Strange things go on around here."

Curiosity made her look at him. His hair was lank and gray, his skin waxy pale, and he had an unpleasantly strong earthy smell. "Like what?"

His black eyes bored into hers, and she thought—absurdly—that they weren't quite human.

The chair squeaked as he leaned close. "Have you noticed ... that none of the workers here"—he looked around conspiratorially—"have beards?"

Callie blinked. She tore her gaze away, flushing. "No, I hadn't noticed," she said, thinking of going back down the hall to look for Meg. Or even the lab tech, Angelo. And where was the receptionist?

The stranger leaned closer. The earthy odor acquired a taint of decay. "They're aliens," he whispered. "Can't grow beards like regular men. And they're plotting to kidnap you. Better reconsider."

Callie rose, heading for the hall to the examination rooms. Before she reached it, however, the stranger stood and, chuckling softly, left the room.

Breathing a sigh of relief, she sagged into a chair. No beards? Aliens? What nuthouse did he escape from?

She was almost giggling when first Meg, then the receptionist, and finally Alex returned. When she told him of the incident, he wasn't surprised.

"Calls himself Hermes. I think he's one of those homeless guys from over on Fourth Avenue. I'll send someone to escort him out."

As they headed for the next station, Callie asked about the project's sponsor, which Alex identified as a private foundation called Aggillon, Inc. When she asked why they were interested in this project, he looked at her askance, one dark brow raised in amusement.

"It just seems like a lot of money's being spent here," she added hastily. "I wondered what the justification was."

"You don't think turning people's lives around is sufficient justification?"

She opened her mouth to contest his overblown claim, but saw Meg glaring at her from Alex's other side and swallowed her words.

He stopped outside a pair of double doors. "I'm afraid these psych profiles are tediously long, but try to answer as honestly as you can."

"Where is the course?" Callie asked suddenly. "Is it on this floor, or will we go somewhere else?"

Alex grinned. "You are the curious one, aren't you?"

"Paranoid is the word," Meg muttered.

Alex laid a hand on the door handle nearest him. "You'll enter on this level." He pulled the door open for them. "While you're completing the profiles, I'll program your starting sequences. One of the techs will take you to an orientation room when you're ready."

Program your starting sequences? Could the course be computer generated? With a virtual reality unit they could set up any sort of obstacle course they wanted, in no space at all. Perfect for a ninth-floor operation like this. It also explained the ritzy jumpsuits. But virtual reality units had to be expensive—just like every other piece of equipment they had in this place.

"Are we not going through together, then?" Meg asked, stepping into the opening.

"You might meet each other once you're inside, but at the beginning, each of you will enter on your own." He paused. "Any more questions?"

They shook their heads. As he walked away Meg leaned against Callie and whispered, "I haven't talked to him this much all year!"

"I didn't think you'd have trouble talking." Callie steered her friend through the doorway. "Have you asked him out yet?"

Meg looked chagrined. "Every time I start, my throat freezes up."

"Meg—"

"Don't worry. I'll do it."

The room beyond the doors held rows of white Formica-topped tables lined with more plastic chairs. About twenty people sat scattered throughout, bent over legal-sized sheets of white paper. Callie was relieved not to find the alien-obsessed weirdo among them.

A table near the door was manned by yet another youth in a gray-and-white uniform who looked as if he hadn't graduated from high school. Perversely Callie found herself studying the smooth skin on his face, realizing the business about the beards was true. Not only did none of the workers sport one, none even looked capable of growing one. From Gabe to Alex to the muscular lab tech, Angelo, to this desk worker, they all looked too young to be doing what they were doing.

She settled with Meg in a corner of the room, skimming the questions as she chewed on the end of her braid. It's nonsense, surely. But ... what about that organ scanner? The jumpsuit's strange fabric? Even Alex's evasiveness about the obstacle course became suspicious.

"All right, what's wrong?" Meg's whisper cut into her thoughts.

"What makes you think something's wrong?"

"You're chewing your hair."

Grimacing, Callie dropped her braid and picked up her pencil.

"So what's the problem?" Meg repeated.

"I don't know. Just ... well, there are things that don't make sense around here."

"Like what?"

"The money. The equipment. Why anyone would be interested in such a dippy project."

"It wouldn't be the first dippy project a private foundation financed. Maybe they're using it as a tax write-off." Meg paused, studying her thoughtfully. "You don't like it that they won't tell you what to expect."

"Not at all."

Meg grinned. "Where's your sense of adventure, girl?" She leaned on both forearms. "So what do you think of Alex?"

"He's cute enough, I guess."

"Cute! Are you blind? He's gorgeous."

"He's attractive, Meg, but no more than anyone else here. Not as much as some, in fact. And that's another thing. There isn't one ugly guy in this whole operation. Not one zit, not one speck of dandruff, not one head of less-than-lustrous hair. No one's too fat or too skinny, or has buckteeth or clunky glasses. Don't you think that's a little weird?"

Meg's green eyes widened. She shook her head. "I think you're a little weird."

"I'm serious, Meg—"

"They're probably too old for zits—"

"Too old? Some of these guys have barely hit puberty. I doubt even Alex has to shave more than once a week."

A crease formed between Meg's brows. "So what's your point? You think there's something fishy going on because a few guys can't grow beards? That the crazy guy was right, and they are a bunch of aliens?"

It did sound absurd, stated flat out like that.

"What do you think they're going to do? Rape us? Kill us? Take us to Mars and perform weirdo examinations on us? Look around, girl. We're in the middle of Psychology East, Room ... I don't know, 910 or something."

Callie frowned at her.

Meg frowned back. "Your sister's right. You are getting paranoid."

That was the word for it, wasn't it? Embarrassed, Callie tossed her braid over her shoulder. "Never mind."

"Callie—"

"No, you're right. I'm being ridiculous. Forget it."

She focused on the questionnaire. Alex hadn't exaggerated—it was long. Two hundred multiple-choice questions filled both sides of the two legal sheets, covering all manner of preferences, from food to climate to religion. She found them depressing, for they reminded her of all the ways she was failing at life and what a total wimp she had become.

Meg finished first and left to turn in her sheets. Some time later Callie submitted her own sheets, then followed the attendant to a windowless cubicle that smelled of ozone. A small Formica-topped table, two plastic chairs, and a tall blue locker comprised the room's furnishings. She sat at the table and waited, feeling claustrophobic and fighting off unpleasant notions of alien kidnappers. Surely, she reassured herself, if Alex and his crew really were kidnapping people, they wouldn't let that nutcase wander around warning everyone.

The door swung open, startling her, and Alex entered with a blue nylon day pack, which he dropped on the table. "So," he said, settling across from her, "Meg tells me you're an artist."

She looked away, embarrassed. "It's just a hobby."

"But one you'd like to see become a career."

"That doesn't look likely."

He smiled. "Life has a way of changing rapidly, often when you least expect it."

She shifted uncomfortably.

He unzipped the day pack's top compartment. "This holds everything you'll need to—"

"What do we need a pack for, if the course is going to be virtual reality?"

He cocked a brow. "Who said anything about virtual reality?"

"If there are different obstacles for each individual, I figure they must be computer generated."

"Oh."

She frowned at him. "You don't have room up here for a limitless array of real obstacles."

"You seem to know more about what we're doing than we do."

Annoyance flared. "Well, if it's not virtual reality, what is it?"

"A course with various obstacles—some decisions to make, instructions to follow. I'm afraid that's all I can tell you."

She frowned at him again, tapping a fingernail on the table. Baby-faced researchers, science-fiction technology, secrecy and evasion. Her fears might be unfounded, even paranoid, but every fiber of Callie's being was screaming at her to beware. And now that it looked like she wouldn't be with Meg anyway, what was the point of staying? Was it really worth the fifty dollars?

She drew a deep breath and stopped tapping. "I think I'd like to withdraw. I just can't go into this blind. I'm sorry for wasting your time, but if you'll return my—"

"Unfortunately that's not possible."

She stared at him.

"Miss Hayes, you didn't come here because of your friend. You came for yourself. Why not give yourself the chance to find the answers you're seeking?"

"What do you mean, ‘that's not possible'?"

Alex sighed. "I'm afraid you've already entered the experiment. Your only way out now is through the Arena."

She blinked in confusion.

He drew a slim black book from the pack. "This is your field manual. You'll need it to find the exit."

He's not going to let me go.

"I advise you to heed its warnings," he went on, "for there is—"

She stood and strode to the door. Alex made no move to stop her, and in the three steps it took her to reach it, she realized it must be locked. Clenching the unmoving knob, she struggled to control her rising panic and finally turned back to him.

"You can't do this," she whispered.

He regarded her with something like compassion. "You did agree to take part, Miss Hayes."

"I agreed to inkblots and fitting pegs into holes."

"You knew it would be an obstacle course when you signed on."

"No legitimate experimenter ever refuses his participants the right to back out. It's not even legal."

"We operate by a different legal system. Surely you read the waiver you signed?"

She stared at him mutely. Yes, she'd read it, but not that closely, not all the paragraphs of fine print. And shouldn't they have made it plain to her what she was signing?

Continued protest, however, seemed useless. Perhaps if she refused to listen to his instructions, refused to pick up the equipment, refused even to look at him—she shifted her gaze to the blue locker—he would conclude she was too much trouble and let her go.

From the corner of her eye, she saw him frowning.

"Refusal to accept our instruction is itself a decision which our experiment is designed to incorporate," Alex said. "We will not suffer, nor will the project, but you will find the experience disagreeable."

She looked steadfastly at the locker.

"Miss Hayes, if you continue to refuse me, I'll have no choice but to deposit you on-site, utterly unprepared."

She said nothing.

He sighed. "Your initial objective will be to pass through the Benefactor's Gate. A guide will lead you from it to the exit. As long as you follow the instructions, you'll have no trouble."

She maintained silence. He went on, but she tuned him out. The remark about depositing her on-site had unnerved her. Surely, he was bluffing....

Then it hit her—illegal as this was, they could never just let her go. They'd have to kill her, or wipe her memory, or addle her mind.

Suddenly she couldn't breathe. Swallowing hard, she interrupted him. "Why are you doing this?"

His expression was genuinely pained. "You'll understand in time," he said. "The white road will lead you to the Gate. Stay on it and keep moving. That's very important. There is evil in the Arena. But as long as you stay on the road, it cannot harm you."

He stood and stepped toward her, offering the pack. She backed away, and he stopped with a sigh. "We intend this for your benefit, Callie. You've come to us because you don't like where your life is going. You want something better. Don't let fear and stubbornness keep you from finding it."

He held out the pack again. She backed against the door, half angry, wholly terrified. What would he do now? Make her take it?

He just stared sadly into her eyes. And vanished.

The pack fell to the floor with a muffled clatter, and she flinched back, gasping. Before understanding could sink in, the table, chairs, and locker followed him into oblivion. Then the cubicle's four white walls pulsed with red light and drew in around her. Just when she thought she would be crushed, they too dissolved, and she fell into nothingness.


Excerpted from:
Arena by Karen Hancock
Copyright © 2002, Karen Hancock

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 27, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I discovered Arena while shelving new fiction at my library. The

    I discovered Arena while shelving new fiction at my library. The cover
    looked interesting, but I would have blown right by it if I hadn’t seen
    the publisher on the back. Wait, Bethany House? That’s Christian
    fiction…? So I read it and the rest is pretty much history. I always
    loved Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings, but I didn’t realize
    that Christian Fantasy, Science Fiction or Allegory existed as a genre
    unto itself. (It’s called “Christian Speculative Fiction.” Read this
    interview for more information if you’re interested.) Arena opened up a
    whole new world for me. I discovered Kathy Tyers, Stephen Lawhead,
    Sharon Hinck, Chris Walley, and Donita K. Paul just to name a few. All
    wonderful authors, but Karen Hancock set a standard with Arena that, in
    my opinion, has yet to be matched.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 16, 2012

    AMAZING!

    Loved this book, Ive now read all of karens books to date. This book was science fiction/ lots of action, romance. Made u think outside the box . I liked this book the best! Well worth the time and money! What a talented writer..... cant wait till the next adventure p.s. this book wont let you put it down!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012

    Honestly the best book ive ever read

    I read this book several years ago and decided to read it again. Im so glad i did. I couldnt put it down. Then i didnt want it to end. I would love for her to write a sequel!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2012

    Mindblowing

    Excellent extended metaphors combined with just the right of action and romance. Pure brillance!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2011

    Excellent read

    I love this book. It is well written and incredibly interesting. The lessons that it shares are great reminders to me of how we are to walk in faith and how easy it is to get off track. I have read this book three or four times and am considering getting a copy for my nook even though there is a paper copy on my bookshelf

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 9, 2011

    Best book I've read in a while.

    "Arena" takes you on a journey through a supernatural world that leads Callie (main character) through mystical maze of choices and challenges, that is guaranteed to lead her to the truth - and change her life forever.

    My best friend lent me this book because she said the main character reminded her of me, and I am now honored to know this. I intend to order myself a copy as well, just because it is now my new favorite book, and will always be treasured in my heart.

    I suggest everyone read it. It'll take you on a roller coaster of emotions and is a wonderful read in all.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2008

    One of the Best Books To Date!

    The Arena is AMAZING! You will not be able to put it down!! This is a great book for anyone who loves The Chronicles of Narnia or the Lord of the Rings. The imagery in this book is wonderful, you'll feel as if you're right there in the Arena with Callie and Pierce! Karen also has a great way of incorporating the gospel into her books. My only caution is, once you've read the Arena, you'll find that no other fiction book compares!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 22, 2011

    Great book! A most have

    I love the book once you start you cant stop reading, the story is great it take you out of this world. Im happy that they finally put this book for the nook.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2010

    Great Alegory

    Excellent way to explain Christain Salvation and growth.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2009

    Loved it!

    I have reread this book may times and enjoy it each and every time I do!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2007

    Arena - Karen Hancock/personal review

    I've never read a book that's so full of allegory. This is a wonderful tale of perseverance and making good choices with a bit of suspense and romance mixed in. For those who enjoy fantasy novels, this is an excellent read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2007

    A very good scifi book

    I first read this book when I was in my early teens, and I enjoyed it immensely. Over the course of several years it slipped to the back of my mind along with all those other good books that tend to accumulate there. About four years later I remembered the book, though I only remembered the plot and main character's name, and wanted to enjoy it again. It has taken another 3 years to track it down, but the wait was well worth it, it was as enjoyable as ever. Most everything about this book is captivating: its characters, its plot, even its setting, take on a life of their own. Even if you are not a follower of the christian maxims it is still an entrancing read. If you have a rainy afternoon to kill I would recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 6, 2004

    Magnificently done

    To be honest at first I wasn't sure if I was going to enjoy reading this book, but as I continued to read and the story developed, I couldn't put it down. The style of Hancock's writing has a sense of repetitiveness to it, however, that I caught once or twice as I was reading. In the end I felt as if she could really paint a wonderful picture of the details in the Arena, almost as if allowing the reader to view things as she did herself. It was a great read - very captivating and hardly any 'boring spots' where the action slowed down. I'd reccomend this book to nearly everyone - so get it from somewhere and read it! You'll love it, I promise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    I really enjoy this story - I read it every year.

    I had it in paperback, but loaned it out and was never returned so I bought it for my nook. It's light reading with believable characters and their short comings. It includes grace, forgiveness, danger and a little romance. I always end wanting to hear more ...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2014

    Alex

    Walks in) Hai pplz.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2014

    {Bakugan Clan}

    Hello i'm making this clan because I love bakugan. Bios will be at the next res starting now. Don't forget...*bakugan hits head* to have fun.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    Phenomenal sci-fi with great characters, themes

    When Callie signs up for an experiment at her college's psychology department, all she wants is some extra money. But things at the experiment get weird fast, and suddenly, she is in a foreign land and has bungled the handbook's first rule: do not leave the white path. She meets a strange, powerful yet haunted man named Pierce and his friends, all searching for a way out of the eerie, dangerous land that has held them captive for years. The story continues with perilous battles, dark revelations, amazing character developement, and tantalizing places of rest. In a mind-bending world where their only guide is a meagre pamphlet - or their own ideas - everyone is faced with hard decisions and a myriad of momentous choices, each of which brings them closer or farther from getting home. I loved the unique idea, original world, complex decisions, and perfectly-paced plot. The charters were memorable and realistic, and the romance was quite well done. Even more, I loved the message of trust, obeying when nothing makes sense, and the rewards of obedience. Karen Hancock has created a masterful, meaningful sci-fi that I am so glad to have read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2014

    Garrett

    Looks at dash leaves

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Lola

    (Igtg)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2014

    Reccomend

    Enjoyed, adventure, romance

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 57 Customer Reviews

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