Last Guardian

Shane L. Johnson, Author
Shane L. Johnson, Author Waterbrook Press $23.99 (530p) ISBN 978-1-57856-367-8
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In the tradition of Christian thrills-and-chills writers Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness) and Stephen Lawhead (Byzantium), first-time novelist Johnson offers a gory fantasy that is loosely based on the New Testament Book of Revelation. But where Peretti succeeds in creating heart-pounding scenarios of demonic warfare, Johnson's story falls flat, and where Lawhead's characters believably embody their hard-won spiritual truths, Johnson makes awkward attempts to pair those truths with his characters' too-sudden insights. Cornell graduate student T.G. Shass unexpectedly becomes the last guardian of an ancient artifact that holds the Creator's divine truth. When Shass proves too weak to resist demonic forces that threaten to seize the gift, a striking man who wears a brilliant blue robe and calls himself Ish (identified by the author in the afterword as Jesus Christ) transports him to a planet named Noron for his own protection. On the surface, Noron seems to be a paradise, but the society's moral depravity is evidenced by its citizens' enjoyment of a dish called Sholari (cooked from unborn children who are conceived in vitro and harvested at 18 months), and by gruesome funeral rites in which infants are murdered to bring the dead back to life. Despite a publisher's note suggesting that the novel's barbarous elements serve to illustrate humankind's depravity and need for spiritual regeneration, much of the violence is gratuitous, and many Christian readers will understandably be offended. The heavy-handed tome takes too long to recount Shass's determined attempt to redeem the fallen people of Noron and win them to Ish. Predictably, Shass triumphs, reunites with his true love and enjoys eternal paradise with other like-minded followers. Why aren't we more excited for him? (Feb.)
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