Christopher Pike has been a successful author of both young adult and adult fiction since the mid-‘80s. His stories are a mix of the supernatural, normal, horror, and comedy that has connected with audiences and landed him on the New York Times best seller list. While these stories are entertaining, they also introduce real historic events as well as mythology and religion.
One of these stories, The Remember Me Trilogy, was described by Pike as his most important story. The books are about Shari Cooper, a young girl who is murdered by someone while at a friend’s birthday party. The twist is, Shari doesn’t know she’s dead. She “wakes up” at home, confused as to why no one seems to see or hear her. She follows her family to the hospital after they get a phone call only to see her own body lying in the morgue. Shari vows to figure out who killed her and why against the advice of a fellow ghost. The other ghost urges Shari to let go of the human world and just enter the light and be at peace, but Shari refuses, unable to leave until she has settled the matter and found a way to comfort her grieving family. Over the next two books, we follow Shari Cooper as she enters the light and discovers everything she thought she knew is wrong. Pike’s love of Eastern and other non-traditional religions can be seen in his description of the afterlife. In the Remember Me world, there is no hell or damnation. God accepts and loves all equally and this world is simply a school we enter to learn and perfect our souls. Later, Pike plays with the idea of “Walk-ins” when he has Shari return to life in the body of a young Hispanic woman who has given up on life and wanted to escape the physical world. Shari is now a Wanderer, an entity who chooses to enter a mature body for a specific goal. He also explores a good versus evil theme when Shari discovers there are beings who hate Wanderers because they do good in the world and break down the fear-based religious ideas that keep people in line, doing whatever they can to destroy these good entities. It’s a page-turner that will definitely make you think.
Pike takes some inspiration from Hindu legends and Vampire stories in The Last Vampire series. Sita and Rama, the star-crossed lovers of Hindu legend are portrayed in a slightly different way in his story of a young woman who is torn from her husband and child in ancient India and changed into a vampire. Krishna and Radha are featured throughout the book, as is Kali Ma, the dark mother. In Hindu legend she is known as a dark, fearsome Goddess of Death and Rebirth. He toys with the legend of vampires as well, changing some of the rules that traditionally govern the creatures. In his books, vampires are not killed by sunlight, just significantly weakened. Additionally, they do not change into bats or command wolves to attack, as Sita clearly states at the beginning. In Sita, Pike has created an interesting character who is part Mary Sue and part fun villain. He manages to counter act Sita’s superior abilities in almost all areas by having her occasionally make errors in judgment, making other characters call her out on her mistakes as well. Other books where he explores the religion and mythology of other cultures include The Immotal (Greek), The Lost Mind (Egyption) and Spellbound (African Shamanism).
Religious themes and mytholgy are not limited to Pike’s YA books. Sati, an adult novel, features a young woman who is picked up by a truck driver while hitchhiking and claims to be God. She them begins leading meetings where she expresses some of the same Eastern ideas that were discussed in his previous books. She soon builds a loyal following, although not everyone is entirely convinced she’s the real deal. In The Season of Passage, he uses the fact Mars is usually associated with evil creatures to create an engrossing novel of a manned mission to Mars that goes horribly wrong.
Pike isn’t limited to ancient legend and religions in his works, however. He also uses some more modern history as the catalyst for events. In The Wicked Heart, a murderer is on the loose. Young girls are disappearing, the only clue a card with a Swastika on it. The authorities are checking out Neo-Nazi groups, but the reader learns it goes much deeper than this after a friend of one of the victims does her own investigation. She speaks with someone who served in WWII and had contact with Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, taking the investigation in a whole new direction.
The works of Christopher Pike can be a wonderful introduction to the religion and mythology of different cultures, as well as historical events while telling an engrossing story. I would highly recommend getting his books for young readers who are resistant to learning about these concepts as a beginning course as well as older readers interested in these subjects. They just may inspire further study.