Thursday, September 8, 2011

BookTuesday: The Scroll

Note: yes, it’s Thursday. All through September, book reviews will come on Thursday. But, I’ve been titling my reviews “BookTuesday” for a while now, and want to remain consistent. Ok?

Today’s book is from Waterbrook Press, a part of Multnomah Publishers. They provided a free advance copy in exchange for the review.

I almost did not finish The Scroll, my book for today. To be honest, with all of the 2012 hysteria, bundled with the War on Terror and a hefty dash of natural disasters, I wasn’t very excited as the book begin to turn toward an “end-of-the-world” ending. There’s just enough of that in fiction, especially in the Christian Fiction genre. (Seriously, it’s either romantic, Amish, or Apocalyptic. Those three choices are about all I see these days.)

However, I didn’t give up on the book. Why not?

First of all, the writing team had me curious. I’ve seen a couple of novels written by Biblical scholars. I’ve seen a few written by scholars and authors, and the addition of a professional fiction author really does help. So, this work being a cooperative effort drew my attention.

Second, the writers created characters that I became genuinely interested in. Admittedly, these characters were somewhat clichéd, but sometimes clichés are based in recurrent real things. I know several workaholics who have sabotaged their social lives, people who have lost everything including their faith, and people who have nothing left but their faith.

Jeffrey and Gansky assembled a group of expected characters. They’re all insiders within archaeology and are working a dig in Israel. The setting itself makes for intensity: where else is high-profile tension automatic? Had the main character, David Chambers, pursued his idea of investigating the Olmecs of Central America, it would have taken a dozen chapters to explain why the place was dangerous. At the name of “Israel” or “Palestine” instant tension flows. This serves as a great backdrop for the book.

The book begins a little slowly, but works up the pace nicely. Initially, the plot looks like it will be a simple dig for old stuff and have romantic tension book. The plot twists towards the apocalyptic, but then it rebalances nicely. I was pleased to find that the goal here was neither to prevent or accelerate the end of the world.

In fact, the world doesn’t end. With the exception of a rapid scene at the climax, the focus stays on earthly means and measures without unnecessary deus ex machina moments.

The Scroll isn’t perfect fiction. There are stock characters, expected plot twists, and action scenes that end as expected. There are some questionable moments in both theology and archaeology. The bad guys are all connected to either secularism or Islam while the good guys are all Christians or Jews. That’s not the way life really is, but this is a book. There are plotlines that seem to be opened up, but then go nowhere.

And the end of the epilogue is either the setup for another book or closure to one of the lingering questions in the book. The cynic in me says we’ll have to see how this book sells to know that answer.

In all, this isn’t a bad read and it’s not going to take too long. Spend a few evenings with The Scroll  you’ll have some good entertainment.

I almost forgot---here’s the cover and the links:

The Scroll: A Novel

Summary: worth the few hours it will take to read. It likely won’t change your life, but it’s a moderate tension political thriller wrapped in Biblical Archaeology.

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