I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Friday, October 13, 2006

THE NEXT PURITAN by Mark Dickson

Wingspan Press
Livermore, CA
Genre: Fiction
Rating: Above average
ISBN: 1595940820, $14.95, pp.

The back cover of this book tell us:

"A bizarre attack with a pair of ordinary pencils leaves a young man near death on the floor of a trendy restaurant and the only one who can finger the assailant isn’t talking. A sensational case for a superior detective? No, just a difficult moral dilemma for a compassionate young woman.

"Meet Rachel Shepherd. Though only nineteen, she’s already experienced enough of the dark side to make her either suicidal or bitter, yet she’s neither. What she hasn’t seen in people, she’s seen in Art, and so she’s still hopeful. Rachel knows the identity of the assailant, but she also knows that he’s no cold-blooded killer. He is, in fact, one of her new boyfriend’s closest friends. Rachel wants to buy him some time to end the tragedy on his own terms, but in order to do so, she’s going to have to lie–lie not only to the police, but to her new boyfriend as well. She can handle lying to the police–she knows the risk to herself and she’s willing to take it–but just the thought of lying to her new boyfriend under such trying circumstances sickens her. He’s religious and he’s naive, and he not only thinks Rachel’s an angel, he thinks that angels don’t need to lie. Surely he’ll understand, though. No, he won’t."

Yes, there was an unusual stabbing, but, to me, the heart of this novel was the evolving relationship between Rachel and Cant as these two young people share their family problems, unusual sex and religious beliefs. Mark Dickson is an extremely well-read, intelligent writer with some interesting ideas about Christianity, the Bible and life in general. Quoting from page 124–Cant telling Rachel about death:

""If there’s no Hell, what happens to the people who are evil; I mean, where do they go after they die?"

"I don’t think they ‘go’ anywhere. I imagine that after the Judgment, they’ll all just be destroyed all in an instant. That’s the meaning of the ‘second death,’ I think."

"‘Second death’?"

"Yeah, in Revelation, the writer uses the term or phrase synonymously with ‘lake of fire,’ or Gehenna, or whatever, saying that believers don’t have to worry about it or be afraid of it, but anyway, Hell is not ‘eternal,’ not in the sense of being everlasting; it’s ‘eternal’ or forever only in the sense that it’s final. The second death is as literal as the first, and there’s no third life or third death, so to speak."

"You really think that’s the way it is?"

"Yeah, I do. Maybe I’m wrong, but in this particular case, I really don’t see any need to distinguish between the figurative and the literal. We all talk about people being dead as though death were a state of being, but death is just non-existence. Likewise, we all talk about Hell as though it were a place of residence for evil-doers, but it’s not; it’s just total destruction or annihilation, the end of the line, no fire, no demons, no nothing, all motion stopped, period, non-being. What does John 3:16 say?"

"‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.’"

"Exactly. Contrary to popular belief, we aren’t born immortal; immortality is given–and only conditionally–only to those who accept Jesus. There is no so-called ‘soul’ separate from the physical body. That’s ridiculous; it’s just idiotic superstition, a holdover from pagan animism. And contrary to popular belief, immortality can be taken away too. The idea the immortality is a done deal is just stupid. God can give or take immortal life as easily as he can take mortal life. Jesus said so himself."

The Next Puritan is a well-written and well-edited POD published book, and if novels with intriguing ideas about religion and morality appeal to you, this book may be of interest.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - October 13, 2006


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