Stephen R. Lawhead, Author, Ross Lawhead, Author, Steve Lawhead, Author . NavPress $12.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-57683-499-2

Bestselling novelist Stephen Lawhead and his son Ross team up in the first book of a trilogy for NavPress's new "!HERO" brand: Christian products targeted toward teens and young adults. Here, the Lawheads answer the question: What if Jesus was born in America and preached in New York City in the late 20th century? The result is a black, Jewish Jesus named Joshua Jones from Pennsylvania and his cousin, Washer John (John the Baptist). Jones eats gyros, does a little street preaching, and works his miracles in contemporary settings. But the real protagonist is international coalition special agent Alex Hunter, who is out to unravel the murder of Washer John (unsurprisingly, Washer John is decapitated) and investigate terrorist activity. Other writers have attempted similar transpositions—Joseph Girzone in his Joshua books, and Bill Myers with Eli—and, unfortunately, writing problems plague this effort. The novel contains odd and jarring tense changes, puzzling jargon ("sweet muscular Buddha!" exclaims one character), and light profanity which will put off some CBA readers. Stephen Lawhead fans won't find the same literary quality here that he has showcased in such novels as Patrick or Byzantium. But then, that's not the goal; the stated point of the series is to create "a different vehicle for a connection to the gospel," and in this, the book succeeds. The shock value of seeing Jesus portrayed as something other than a haloed, sentimental figure should help this book appeal to a younger audience. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 07/28/2003
Release date: 09/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-57683-520-3
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4176-0322-0
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