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4.15  ·  Rating details ·  2,119 ratings  ·  254 reviews
Callie Hayes is living a life of fear and disillusionment when she volunteers for a psychology experiment that promises to turn her life around. As her orientation proceeds, Callie becomes frightened by the secrecy and evasion she encounters. When she demands to be released from the program, she is suddenly dropped into a terrifying alien world and into a perilous battle b ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Bethany House Publishers
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J.K. Riki I understand your predicament. I, too, had similar feelings at certain points in this book. Still, it was an interesting enough story to get me to…moreI understand your predicament. I, too, had similar feelings at certain points in this book. Still, it was an interesting enough story to get me to finish it, and now that it's over I'm glad I read it. I learned a lot analyzing the writing and story choices as I went, and it was entertaining enough overall to warrant the read-through.

Will you be glad you stuck with it if you go back to it? I can't say you would for sure, but if I had posted this question after 100 pages and someone said to me "Just go finish it and enjoy" I would be glad they told me to see it through. Hope that helps some!(less)

Community Reviews

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Dina Sleiman
Aug 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Dina by: Christi Sleiman
Shelves: favorites
I wish I could give this book a sixth star. Take a dash of Pilgrim’s Progress, toss in a good helping of The Matrix, and you get Arena by Karen Hancock. Talk about a book I couldn’t put down. My teenaged daughter highly recommended Arena to me, and it turned out to be one of the most fascinating and unique novels I have ever read. Sci-fi fans will go especially crazy for this book, but everyone will appreciate the finely crafted allegory of the Christian experience.

Callie Hayes thinks she is si
May 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
To the person who recommended this book to me, first of all, I would like to say, "Mother, that was one weird bus stop!"

What do you get when you combine a western novel with a sci-fi and a romance and Pilgrim's Progress? You get a cowboy shooting blue laser light at demons to save his true love. That's what. And then you stay up late into the night trying to find out what happens, and you come away with the same sort of impression you have after eating sushi or kimchee for the first time--weird
Jul 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This has to be my favorite book of all time. I have read this book several years ago and it has withstood the test of time. Brilliantly wriiten. I loved the concept of this story. Makes christian fiction fun and interesting like never before.
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
One of my favorite books, re-read it again, have already read it a couple of times. It is a very different kind of book, blending sci-fi and Christian allegory, but it also is a great adventure and quite a ride, one of those books you can't put down. A bit on the edgy side, so not for everyone, but very clear allegory. On the back of the book it is described as a modern blending of elements of the Matrix and Pilgrim's Progress, and I would add: and more! If you want something different, check it ...more
Chris G
Dec 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is my favorite book. I didn't know what to expect when I picked this one up, but two days later I still couldn't put it down for more than a few minutes. I read it years ago and I still reread it. It's got great plot, characters, pacing, and is a fabulous allegory of the Christian walk from before salvation til God takes u home. I can't say enough good things about it. It's a must read.
E. Melure
Jun 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I typically have a hard time with Christian Fiction, because, to agree with a few of the reviews, that genre tends to be too "in-your-face" or too "Christian-cliché." I happen to be someone who knows God to be much more than cute quotes and easy street, so I get slightly repulsed by those types of books because they do not accurately portray the difficulty of life -- with and without God.

While granting my limited knowledge of this category, I found Arena to be an incredible example of the walk o
LuAnn Adams
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best “under the radar” books I have read. Her ability to communicate spiritual truths through a sci-fi story is impressive. And the story itself is one of the weirdest rollercoasters you will ever ride.
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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, ...more
Austin Hobbs
Jan 30, 2014 rated it did not like it
Arena by Karen Hancock
.1/5 Stars

I like to start my reviews with the best parts, themes, characters or whatever I think makes the book standout. This book has already been a heavy discussion piece in my "book club." However, not for the reasons a book should be. The only things about this book that I can muster in a positive aspect are the following: the message and the overall idea.

Unfortunately, the execution of the idea was atrocious. The writing was bland, repetitive and overall boring. There
Heather G Gentle
Oct 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I absolutely loved the first 3/4 of this book. Great adventure, mysterious and interesting characters and a good visual of the alien world. The only thing I would have liked is for the ending to have a little more to it....although I did like the very end where they meet up again years later...not the most original..but still cute and hopeful.
I had no idea this was "Christian fiction" until afterward- there was no "religion pushing" in this book-- just a lot of "faith" basis which was done in a
Oct 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and didn't find that it was preachy in the Christian sense, despite the fact that is is listed as inspirational fiction. I can certainly see the parallels and allegory, but I do not believe that it would be a turn off to someone who was not a deeply religious person. I thought the message transcended Christianity as a moral tale of life, asserting ourselves and the choices we make. I enjoyed the little bit of an added happy ending as well. Sucker for the guy getting the girl.
Callie Hornbuckle
Jan 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solidly written. I was surprised halfway through to discover it was an allegory for Christianity, but she manages to walk the line (barely) and keep it from being heavy handed. Recommended if you enjoy CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy.
May 27, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm kind of torn with this book. On the one hand, I did kind of enjoy it. The writing wasn't anything spectacular, and the story was kind of strange, but it was interesting in a way that kept me reading (although more slowly than I would with a book that really captured me).

Callie, at first, is a bit of a boring character. She seemed pretty stuffy for someone that young. I can understand serious, or reserved, but she came across as way older than she was supposed to be. So, it was kind of hard t
Apr 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK!! MY ABSOLUTE ALL TIME FAVOURITE BOOK!! I NEED SOMEONE TO RECOMMEND A BOOK TO ME THAT WOULD BE SIMILAR TO KARENS BOOKS!! I love the characters, the plot, the allegory and the cute little character romance!! :)
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I love this book! I have read it several times, it never gets old.
Maci Dierking
Feb 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Hmmm. This one was thought provoking for sure. Enjoyable overall. Although it was hard to keep with, with all the different names and terms etc.
Mar 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
What a terrible excuse for a book.

Lost meets Hunger Games meets aliens (so far so good...) meets a terribly disguised "The Lord Jesus Christ is my personal savor, and if you don't believe, hell is in store" morality metaphor.

First of all, I should have guessed, after reading the effusive "Gratitude" section at the beginning. "[Thanks] to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom we live and move and for all things have been created" ... And "to all [those] God provided before He saw fit to gra
Jan 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure where to start. Though I enjoy this book from a purely sci-fi standpoint, its undertone is simply unbearable. Every time I manage to forget the fact that this book was written as a (rather shitty) allegory, something will come up that practically flaunts it. The best way to put it is your friend is telling a mildly amusing story. He means it to be humorous, but you find it interesting nonetheless. Yet every time you manage to forget how stupid the point of your friend's story is, he ...more
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
A friend recommended this to me, so I sat down and read it -- in about six hours. You are kept wanting to know more, to find out what will happen to Callie and her friends. But therein lies the frustration -- it takes so long to reach the end. I sometimes found myself skim-reading, and the pacing in the second half was rather slow. But I liked the symbolism and she had some great and unique touches here and there.
Feb 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
I didn't expect to enjoy this one, but I ended up really liking it. It was sometimes hard so see past the heavy-handed, rather corny fundamentalist Christian metaphors, though. Once I finished rolling my eyes, however, I was completely sucked into the wonderfully crafted, full, lush world that she created. Like every good book I have read, I was left wanting to stay in that world a little longer.
Nov 25, 2012 rated it did not like it
I detested this book. Although I don't mind an allegorical novel (The Witch, the Lion and the Wardrobe comes to mind), I prefer them to be more subtle. This one basically took a sledgehammer to your head over and over again. Without the "finding Jesus" allegory, this book became just a routine fantasy novel. So, the question is: why did I waste my time finishing this?
Bill Tillman
A very unique book, speculative in nature. When Meg and Callie sign up for an experiment at the Univ. of Arizona they have no idea where it will take them. They separately end up in a place called the "Arena", on another world and are confronted with life and death struggles in dealing with the environment.
Jan 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-with-group
I gave it a valiant effort - a solid 50% completion.

This pretty much sums it up...

Judy Templeton-sims
Jul 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good book. Can be compared to the Hunger Games.
It is a Christian writer, so the theme is to trust Elhanu.
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Slow at the beginning, but very interesting at the end!
Apr 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Ik wilde m'n boek verder lezen maar hij's uit 😭😭
Sheri Swift
Sep 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
So unusual and different ;)
Michaela Selway
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a book. I literally have no other words for it. I have read this book about 5 times and never fail to see something new.

I'm just writing a brief overview as I HATE reading reviews and seeing accidental spoilers :D hope it helps to give a crazy short overview :)

So it opens with Callie and her best friend, Meg, signing up for some experiment that is supposed to change their lives. The only problem is that Callie is SUPER dubious because this is not the first experiment Meg has dragged her too
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Adults looking for a thought-provoking adventure
Hancock has a way with world-building, and she manages in this book to craft a thoroughly alien, yet eerily familiar world with a likable and believable main character. The story is all about Callie growing into a strong, grounded woman. It's primarily a spiritual journey, but unlike any allegory I've ever read, and there's a lot of action (no preaching). The romance, while present, doesn't detract from the adventure (although it does make the climax gut-wrenching). It's grittier than Hancock's ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adventure, humor, love, mystery
Typically, I don't get into books like this. I like staying in this world. I don't like traipsing off into different ones. But oh boy. What a journey!
I gave this 4 stars for knocking my socks off. I was very unprepared for the adventure ahead. I didn't like Callie for about 3/4 of the book. She was just so... I don't know. But to keep this positive, what I did appreciate about her was her good sense to leave the first group and go back, and her good sense to like Pierce.
This book was very allego
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“Did you know that when you save someone's life, it makes you their hero? Did you know that, even if that person is mad at your for saving their life, another person who may have been watching or who may have heard about it could be affected by what you did for that other person, and you could be a hero to them, too?” 1 likes
“There was no spoken testimony, no verbal deposition, no swearing upon holy books, for words alone could lie. Decision and action, repeated over time, did not.” 0 likes
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