Book Review – Prophet: a novel by Frank E. Peretti

Prophet by Frank E. Peretti

Prophet: a novel

Imagine having your world shaken to the point where you don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. Imagine having to choose the wrong just so that you don’t have to acknowledge your mistake. Imagine having to control co-workers and the stories they pursue just so that your conscience can remain violated and your secret remain undiscovered. For some people, like Tina Lewis, this is reality although they would never admit this little fact to themselves—let alone to others.

Tina Lewis, a character in Frank E. Peretti’s Prophet, is a content manager at NewsSix, the news department of Channel 6. Falling in league with the devil, she tries to suppress a story that would weaken Governor Hiram Slater’s chances of re-election. But John Barrett Jr. is determined to have the truth come out. John Barrett lost his religious kook of a father in the fight for the truth and would lose his estranged son if he did not take a stand and see the Truth prevail. In the process he sees through Tina hearing her cries and those of the City, shares his deceased father’s pain, reconciles with God, accepts his destiny and sees justice served at a cost to the chagrin of Tina Lewis and associates.

Never before have I encountered a story that is so real and has such depth. Although Peretti doesn’t delve deep into a character’s history as Lionel Trilling in The Middle of the Journey or Netta Musket in A Daughter for Julia, he does an excellent job at characterisation, communicating the characters’ backstories and their growth on the various issues explored in the novel. One of those issues being abortion as well as the privacy laws that allow minors to have abortions without parental consent or knowledge and the malpractice the secrecy engenders.

Peretti goes into a lot of detail sometimes repeating scenes and cues in the newsroom that the reader was already familiar with. Peretti spent a great amount of time describing the layout of the room and how the other reporters in the room were editing their news packages before John Barrett entered the room to edit the story he was working on. That said, he described the workings of a news room set in 1991 very well. If you did know how news gathering, sifting and broadcasting worked, you’ll have a better idea after reading this book.

His details made the story real to me. The main characters were well-crafted, the plot gripping, the gospel presentation well done, and most definitely thought provoking. One thing he set out to achieve was to have his readers consider where they stand on the issues of abortion, human rights, their relationship with Jesus, and the masks they wear. The supernatural dimension of the book was a bonus and quite refreshing for someone drawn to the supernatural and well-versed in science fiction and fantasy. Peretti also made use of different points of view not restricting himself to only telling the story from John Barretts’ perspective. At critical moments he switches views or uses John’s prophetic gift to give the reader insight into the reactions or motivations of the characters involved in a particular scene.

Prophet is 575 pages long (excluding the front and back matter) and could most probably have been cut by 10 to 15 pages due to the amount of detail. The book was published in 1992 by Living Books, a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

If you are into the fantasy, science fiction, or religious fiction, get your hands on a copy of this book. Peretti presents both sides of the abortion issue and some insight into the influence the media has on our behaviour and the choices we make. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in learning more. And if you just want to take a break from your regular diet of (genre) fiction, read Prophet. It will make you think.

Book Review – Bloody Valentine by James Patterson

Have you ever picked up a book expecting great things and then experienced a huge disappointment? Well, that was my experience with Bloody Valentine by James Patterson (the author of the Alex Cross series) with K. A. John. Bloody Valentine was most definitely not one of Patterson’s best. The book was published by Arrow Books in 2011.

On Valentine’s Day Jack Barnes, a wealthy restaurant owner, woke up filled with great joy as he went over the plans he made for him and his second wife, Zee. His first wife died in a tragic accident when the castle that he bought for her burned down with her inside. Zee experiences a bizarre and elaborate death as her heart is ripped out of her body while she was still conscious. As a sick joke, Zee’s heart was sent to Jack Barnes as a Valentine’s Day gift. The cops get involved interrogating all the residents in the Barnes’ apartment building. They go through the motions collecting evidence, interrogating suspects, analysing evidence including video footage and come up with almost nothing.

Patterson could’ve revealed the murderer in a less melodramatic, cliché way. The story itself had little depth. It felt like Patterson just went through the motions. He did, however, have me guessing who the murderer was as I tried to identify the red herrings, false positives and real clues. It was the first James Patterson book I read so I am not familiar with his style but the book does not come close to the works of crime writers such as Dame Agatha Cristi, Dick Francis, John Grisham, and even James Patterson himself.

So, if you are looking for an easy mystery to solve, for practice in identifying positive clues and red herrings, or just something to waste your money on, then this is the book for you.

Book Review – Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament

Have you ever read a book that was better the second time round? Well, that’ what it felt like reading Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament church (Autumn House ® Publishing). Jack J. Blanco picks up the Biblical narrative just before the ascension of Christ in Acts 1 and follows the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire during the time of the apostles. He retells the events St. Luke recorded in the Book of Acts using simple English and little melodrama. 

Witness: Acts through Revelation

Witness: a fresh look at the New Testament Church

Witness was written to help theology students understand the New Testament by placing the events and the letters in chronological order. To this end, he discarded with chapter and verse numbering; instead he concluded each section with Scripture references. Furthermore, he included major Christian doctrines leaving out those portions of Scripture that impeded the flow of the narrative and tended to confuse readers. I did not notice these gaps nor did they offend me because I knew that the work was intended for one’s reading pleasure and clarification. Sometimes too much information bogs you down.

The author intended the book to be a simplified, flowing version of the Bible narrative which I believe he succeeded in creating. The letters Sts. Paul, Peter, John, James and Jude wrote to their respective audiences were placed in chronological order. Jack Blanco vividly describes the shipwreck Sts. Paul and Luke experienced on the shores of the island of Malta (Acts 25,26). Portions from St. Paul’s letters were used to complete the narrative since the Book of Acts does not contain all the details of St. Paul’s imprisonment.

It was with great eagerness that I turned to the final chapters of Witness to see how Jack Blanco would simply the Book of Revelation. I was impressed with how he maintained the use of simple language. I was, however, disappointed by the portions of Scripture he left out in his paraphrasing of Revelation 1. He handled the description of Revelation chapters 10-14, 19-22 well, I think. I noticed that Witness does not include the time prophecies reminding the reader of its purpose to inform.

Overall, it was a good read. Witness answered some questions I had as it placed events and letters in context. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a plain explanation of the New Testament without the possibility of getting sidetracked by or lost in the complexity.

Below you can compare the rendering of 1 Corinthians 4:1-5 by Witness (WIT), The Message (MSG) and the No Greater Love (NGL). All three books are paraphrases of the Bible.

WIT: You need to think of us as servants who have been entrusted with the secret things of God. What is expected of servants? They must be faithful to their master. It doesn’t matter what you think of me or what a human court decides about me. I don’t even make decisions about myself. I let God do that. Even though I don’t know of anything that I’m doing wrong that doesn’t justify me before God. That’s why I leave everything about myself in the Lord’s hands. He’s the One who reads motives and brings everything to light. In time we will each receive praise from God, not from someone else.
NGL: So Appollos and I should be looked upon as Christ’s servants who distribute God’s blessings by explaining God’s secrets. Now the most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to. What about me? Have I been a good servant? Well, I don’t worry over what you think about this, or what anyone else thinks. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but even that isn’t final proof. It is the Lord Himself who must examine me and decide. So be careful not to jump to conclusions before the Lord returns as to whether someone is a good servant or not. When the Lord comes, he will turn on the light so that everyone can see exactly what each one of us is really like, deep down in our hearts. Then everyone will know why we have been doing the Lord’s work. At that time God will give each one whatever praise is coming to him.
MSG: Don’t imagine us leaders to be something we aren’t. We are servants of Christ, not his masters. We are guides into God’s most sublime secrets, not security guards posted to protect them. The requirements for a good guide are reliability and accurate knowledge. It matters very little to me what you think of me, even less where I rank in popular opinion. I don’t even rank myself. Comparisons in these matters are pointless. I’m not aware of anything that would disqualify me from being a good guide for you, but that doesn’t mean much. The Master makes that judgment. So don’t go ahead of the Master and jump to conclusions with your judgments before all the evidence is in. When he comes, he will bring out in the open and place in evidence all kinds of things we never even dream of—inner motives and purposes and prayers. Only then will anyone of us get to hear the “Well done!” of God.