Lucifer and the Creator have entered, yet again, into a wager they've made many times before, but this time, the existence of creation itself is balanced on the outcome. The angels are forbidden to intervene.
Nine-year-old Joby Peterson dreams of blazing like a bonfire against the gathering darkness of his times, like a knight of the Round
Table. Instead, he is subjected to a life of crippling self-doubt and relentless mediocrity inflicted by an enemy he did nothing to earn and cannot begin to comprehend.
As the final struggle unfolds, one question occupies every mind in heaven and in hell. Which will prove stronger, love or rage?
Overall impression when I finished: Pleasantly surprised but not overly wowed.
I briefly read an interview with the author. To quote from it, Mr. Ferrari said, “…the book is not, in fact, about Christianity to begin with, only set in it.” That surprised me!
He sums up his themes as thus: (1) “The assumption most of us in America are taught from the cradle on that there is some reliable cause and effect relationship between what we do and what we get... As we grow up, however, this reassuring assumption is betrayed again and again as we discover that the world rarely behaves so neatly.” (2) “When some unthinkably terrible thing is about to happen, we’ve learned to anticipate rescue via some heroically clever and utterly unexpected solution just when all seems lost. This hope is also betrayed again and again as we grow up in the actual world.” (3) “What does justice mean? How far would you go to make the world operate as you think it should?”
Looking at everything from a Christian point of view, there were some things that I felt were missed… namely Jesus. Three different angels show up. Lucifer shows up, obviously. God is there. But, while Jesus is mentioned when Joby attended Catholic church, Jesus never shows up. I know he was not involved in the wager, but why involve so many other themes in Christianity and miss the main component to Christianity? As the author states above, this is not meant to be a book about Christianity, but it felt like it lacked a bit of intellectual stamina due to this absence. Ferrari was very respectful of Christian themes and theology, but I can’t help but feel he did not know what to do with Jesus and so simply excluded Him.
Another thing I felt disappointed in was (and yes, I know, not a Christian book), Taubolt is this town where the descendants of angels are living. Yet no one ever seems to pray. If there’s a problem, no one says, “Hey great-great-great-great-great….(etc) Grandfather, can I get some guidance here?” They are “of the blood” of angels. Yet they never seem to express any sort of faith in God. This really bothered me as the story wore on. It seemed to contradict the whole concept of the safe haven they were living in as well as Eden they eventually discover. I don’t need the book to be preachy, but no one prayed! Come on, Michael, what are you doing as their guide?
The ending? There was such a dramatic and emotional trajectory for most of the book that I'm not sure if there would have been an ending I'd have felt was satisfying, but it ended very quickly after 600+ pages of experiencing Joby’s turbulent life. I wanted a more peaceful feeling at the end. I don’t mind where Ferrari left it, but I just wanted some more joy for Joby before we said goodbye. Ferrari never quite off-set all the painful things that he experienced and we as readers experienced. I could draw conclusions that this in itself alludes to Jesus’ story in that we have very few stories after his suffering and horrific death, but after reading Ferrari’s intentions with his writing, I’m pretty sure he was not making this comparison. So what can we draw from that which ultimately saves Joby? Love should lead you. While it may be out of your hands, you need to have a little faith and trust. I appreciated that the story ended with God and Gabriel enjoying Creation (as the book began).
The character of Joby and his situations are relatable in certain instances. When have we not felt guilt, self-doubt, self-loathing even? Should we be checking our backs for demons whispering in our ears as well? I think Ferrari eloquently explored Joby’s life in a way that was touching and personal (but not uncomfortably so). I found myself rooting for him from the very beginning and feeling mournful for him when things went belly-up again, and again, and again. It’s a long read, but it keeps you reading. Ferrari has a beautiful voice in this story and creates clear pictures for the reader. I thought his use of language was engaging and effortless at the same time.
One piece of modern society that was overall avoided in this book is social media. There is not a definitive time period that Ferrari sets, but I’m assuming it’s in this century. Social media is a huge piece that Lucifer could have explored to torment Joby even more. The absence of this tool was an interesting choice by the writer. Overall, he does keep Joby in the small-town framework throughout most of the pieces of his life we experience. So while I can understand this omission, I think Lucifer would have definitely gone down the avenue and used it to its very potent potential.
I love the mythology in this story. I enjoyed how it all goes back to that first humanoid given consciousness, interestingly not by God in Ferrari’s book, but by Lucifer, and subsequently weaves through history to explain Mt. Olympus and the crew that congregated up there (and why) up to modern times. I felt the scenes including God were some of the most interesting and were extremely thought-provoking. God is usually not given a personality in books. I enjoyed the way Ferrari wrote about Him. Ferrari's portrait of God is one of an accessible God. It worked. I find a lot of truth to this picture. I also really enjoyed the Camelot tie-in. Ferrari expertly weaves the two different pieces of history together. I do not know lots about Arthurian legend, but I really enjoyed its role in this story.
I think one of my favorite parts was the idea of why God created a world with free will, what that really means, and, with a good sprinkle of humor, how the world discovered genuine love. It's a perfect blend of faith, science, and common sense. I’m glad I read the book. And when I closed the book, while I was not completely floored by the ending, I think the story as a whole was enjoyable and engrossing.
Just released December 2016: "The Forgotten" volume 2 "Heir of the Heretic"
Reviewed and awarded the
2016 Indie Editor's Choice
by the Historical Novel Society.
Long listed for the Historical Novel Society 2017 Indie Award.
Goodreads profile at: https://www.goodreads.com/JElse