What happens when you take a military unit charged with investigating “unexplained phenomena” and add a skeptical sociologist? For that matter, where do you find a skeptical sociologist? The Alarmist by Don Hoesel is concerned with the former and not the latter of those questions. He has set the table with a group called the NIIU, a group of active-duty Army officers and specialists that investigate odd things around the world.
One thing that they’ve noticed is an increase of work lately, and so the boss, Colonel Jameson Richards, contracts with sociologist Brent Michaels to try and determine what’s going on behind the scenes. The book takes place against the backdrop of the coming 2012 hysteria and in the midst of the current destabilized world of terrorism and high-dollar economics.
Woven within the story are elements of romance between Michaels and a member of the NIIU team. The groundwork is laid for a future between the two, but it’s definitely not the focus. Also as part of the background chatter of the book are the various odd things the NIIU has investigated over recent years. Most of it is dismissed from further discussion as Michaels is told that, well, “that’s classified.”
The book does not hint that the government really does just classify such things or even try to make a case that such investigations actually exist. Hoesel has just found a good framing point for a novel.
The action here moves at a good pace, and the resolution is satisfactory. One thing with a novel like this that introduces a “new ______(hero, heroic team, whatever)” is the fear that the author is as concerned with a sequel as he is with the current work. Hoesel does not give that impression. If he never writes another novel with these characters, the reader won’t be left wondering what happened.
However, the reader will wonder what else the NIIU could get themselves into….and I’d love to read that and find out.
A word about the label of “Christian” on this book: this is not a blatantly evangelistic book, like Left Behind was. Rather it is a book that shows Christian people and non-Christian people working together to solve problems. There are discussions of faith and the value of faith, but I did not see it as over-the-top. The other product of being a “Christian” novel is a lack of profanity or sexual discussion. This book avoids those, and is no worse for it. True, it’s likely that some of these characters would use a different vocabulary, but they may not have. I grew up in a house with a military officer who talked like the ones in this book, so it’s not unrealistic. Adding sex to the character’s lives would have bogged down the plot, so that’s not a major loss either.
In all, I recommend this one. It’s not super difficult, so it would probably work for teens on up.