My, oh my. What a unique and enthralling book. As many of you know, over recent years there have been a spate of “apocalyptic” fiction novels by Tim Lehay and Jerry Jenkins, once serious writers. These novels pretend that a certain end of times will come and play out various adventures against this backdrop.
This book by Steven L. Gibson is perhaps a much more thoughtful and honest addition to the genre. In this case, the story is not according to a fanciful script designed to appeal to true believers that already buy the “case” outlined in the backdrop. Instead, Gibson presents a novel whose two primary characters, close friends, begin from the same spiritual place, shift to divergent views, and then through the unfolding of the story come to a place of mutual acceptance and respect for each other’s beliefs. Beyond that perhaps, they come to somewhat of a unification of those beliefs, though each from a differing perspective.
I suppose this is the Holy Grail of much of the spiritual community. Can their be a unified theory of religion that transcends tribal fundamentalism, and thereby makes our world a more peaceful and safer place? The book opens the door a crack to that possibility with its promise of opening a portal to free discussion and debate.
In the course of the novel, Gibson takes the reader through a primer of current thoughts by both christians and atheists. (Atheist is a challenging word to use because it conjures up certain images which do not adequately describe it. An atheist can be spiritual and very comfortable in Eastern and New Age philosophy which have fabulous and generous value systems). In the novel, he provides sufficient detail to build a general understanding of the differing stances and provides enough names and reference materials to give the reader a road-map for further exploration. The “story” of the novel is sufficiently interesting to keep the reader engaged.
Cameo appearances by such luminaries as Bishop John Shelby Spong provide opportunity for dialog in which inquiring minds have access to many answers in keeping with these thinker’s philosophies. These passages can be somewhat lengthly but it is here that the nuggets are found. Gibson also injects many passages of Christian scripture with some textual scholarship, pointing our error or matters of uncertainty or alternative interpretation.
The truth is that there is a Secret of the Universe. No one knows what it is, all we can be certain of is that it is beyond our experience and therefore our limited ability to comprehend. Gibson provides some thoughts on what it might be.
While the conclusion leaves many questions unanswered, perhaps that is the point. It attempts to draw a cozy ending where love is what matters most and the parties to the story come together in that spirit of love around the death of one protagonist. While this could certainly happen in real life, it does not resolve anything. Yes, peace is at hand for the few in that room, but war still rages for the millions out here.
I recommend this book not for it’s poetry or prose, nor for it’s throat grabbing suspense, but for it’s honest and thorough addressing of contemporary issues in the context of “story”. The world could not help but be a better place if we and our children read more books like this and fewer trivial, materialistic, megalomaniacal, or meaningless fantasies.
This book is available on Amazon and other book purveyors.