Go to Homepage   James Stevens-Arce: Soulsaver

 

Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:three moon gifHarcourt Inc. (Hardcover), ISBN 0-15-100472-2
A reviewer's heart plummets to his boots upon receiving certain types of novel. You know the type -- serial killer leaves bloody stains over a hundred pages of meaningless tripe; hero and heroine constantly trip over a gushy prefabricated comedy of errors; and bible banging, shove religion down your throat, Christian epics.

Book: James Stevens-Arce, Soulsaver My editor passed me Soulsaver.

"You'll like it. It's good."

Dang it, by the time the plummet stopped there was a hole in the ground half way through to Geneva.

So I prepared for the worst. Three six packs of beer and two bottles of aspirin, designed to relieve the pain after the first chapter, stood ready on the table.

They were still there 38 chapters later. By the time I reached the end of chapter 50, they went back to their appropriate homes around the house.

I enjoyed Soulsaver. First time author James Stevens-Arce rocks the house and tramples a few unbelievers in this fast paced and enigmatic flaying of the old faith.

In truth, as Juan Batiste Lorca begins his career as a soulsaver (one of a special squad created to get suicide victims to the resurrection center before they are beyond reviving), one gets the sense of Christianity being taken down a peg or two. As the story progresses we see the "other faction" -- twins who may be the Second Coming, and a network of "heretics" -- and the plot clarifies into a play of politics in a religious setting. The book mocks extremism, not real faith.

Juan's partner, Fabiola Munoz, constantly warns that Juan's beliefs may be wrong. Juan finds this hard to accept, as he is the illegitimate son of a major Christian miracle worker and TV host. Juan Batiste tries hard to live up to his father's image. His moral dilemma worsens as he meets the twins, the hunted leaders of the heretics, and the "Shepherdess" -- the beloved figurehead of the status quo.

The intrigue and tension build to a wonderfully surrealist climax, which still leaves just that shadow of a doubt.

Stephen Smith

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