The Last Christian – by David Gregory (2010)

The Last Christian

Modern science, medicine and technology have made some amazing improvements to the lives of people around the globe. Some have been able to regain hearing or sight. Face transplants for severe burn victims have been possible. Replacement limbs are giving many a nearly normal way to function. AI, or Artificial Intelligence, has given us self-driving cars, better military defenses, robotic surgery, spam filtering for our email, and a host of other benefits.

“The Last Christian” is a futuristic thriller set in 2088. Neuroscience and medicine have progressed so far that people can now swap out their original brain for a new silicon brain that contains all their own memories and knowledge. It’s an improved brain that speeds up learning, and best of all, will never die. It can be transplanted into another body if the original body dies. So a person’s consciousness could go on indefinitely. But what happens to a person’s soul and religious beliefs when they get this artificial brain?

Abby Caldwell, an American by citizenship, has lived her entire life with her missionary parents in a primitive New Guinea village. Her parents died many years ago, but she continued to live there, even adopting an orphaned girl. When a strange illness attacks the village, she goes up the river to look for help. Unfortunately, when she returns, every person in the village is dead. She decides to go to the United States. When she gets there, she is shocked to discover that she cannot find anyone who is still a Christian. She appears to be the last Christian in the country. No religion exists anymore.

Although the story seems somewhat far-fetched, it really does stretch the reader’s thinking. How far can we go with AI? Could it really cause people to lose their faith? A scenario such as this book describes is not that far in the future.

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Deeper Water – by Robert Whitlow (2008)

Deeper Water

Author Robert Whitlow generally writes about lawyers, court cases, and the South. In this novel, the story centers on a young law student – Tami Taylor – who is looking for a summer job. She is offered a position as a law clerk at the Braddock, Appleby, & Carpenter firm. Her main assignment is to investigate and build a defense for an elderly black man named Moses, who is charged with several dozen counts of trespassing. Moses lives on his fishing boat, and would tie his boat to private docks along the river for the night, which irked the neighbors who owned the docks. It seems like a petty charge that should just have ended with a warning to “please ask folks if they mind before you use their dock”. But as Tami works on a defense for Moses, she discovers that there is more of a story than meets the eye. Is he a harmless old man, or a heartless killer?

This story did not seem very realistic. The main character, Tami, is just too naive to seem plausible. She has been homeschooled, is deeply religious, and consults her parents for every decision. If she is still that tied to the apron strings of home, how did she make it through several years of law school? And when she applies for jobs, she has no cell phone, internet service, or e-mail for them to contact her with, only her parents’ landline telephone. She also has no car, and depends on her parents or friends for rides. She can’t accept the job, which involves moving to another town, until her parents give their blessing (which they do)

After she starts working at the firm, she often loses track of time, forgets to do things, keeps the company’s loaner car longer than she should, and goes off for a leisurely lunch with one male lawyer or another when she has work to do. When I compare that to any of the John Grisham novels about lawyers and court cases, Grisham’s guys are always running like crazy, eating lunch at their desk, and working like maniacs to get their work done on time. After work, Tami seems to have plenty of time to spend with her elderly landlady, sometimes heating up supper for her. Tami never seems to have to bring cases home to work on, and has enough energy to get up early in the morning to run four miles before walking to work.

The other female summer clerk also does not seem real. She is always trying to get the lawyers to go out with her, calmly doing research in the company library, or going to parties at night. She never seems tired, and frequently pokes fun of Tami’s religious beliefs, which causes friction between the women.

Then there are the two guy lawyers, Zach and Vince, who coincidentally are both Christians like Tami, and who are both interested in dating her. What are the chances of that? Although this was a clean read, which I appreciated, the story never seemed even close to real. If you are looking for a legal thriller that is at least somewhat authentic, this book is not it.

A Walk To Remember – by Nicholas Sparks (1999)

A Walk To Remember

The story is told by Landon Carter when he is 57 years old, recalling a time forty years earlier. It was the 1950s in the small town of Beaufort, North Carolina. Landon and his buddies would sneak out at night to get into mischief, and often pull pranks on folks around town. Although it was a very religious community, the local minister, Hegbert Sullivan, and his daughter Jamie were frequently subjects of their off-color jokes. Jamie dressed modestly, wore a plain brown sweater, always carried her Bible, and was unfailingly kind.

Landon found himself thrown together with Jamie, first in desperation as a date for the school dance, and later as a fellow actor in the church’s annual Christmas play. For the first time, he saw how beautiful Jamie was, both inside and out. They began doing things together, like visiting kids at the local orphanage, and raising money for them. Landon’s old friends ridiculed him for hanging around Jamie, but after a while that really didn’t matter. About the time Landon realized that he had fallen in love with Jamie, she told him that she was dying.

The things that kept this book from being a sappy, shallow love story are: 1 – it was based on the author’s own sister, who was dying as he wrote the story; and 2 – it portrayed a kind of love based on devotion to God and others. As Landon and Jamie looked outward and tried to meet the needs of people around them, they formed a close bond to each other. While the book was a tear-jerker, it also showed how anyone, no matter how young or old, can make the world a better place just by loving others.

The book was made into a movie in 2002. While the book was set in the 1950s, the producers of the movie changed it to the late 1990s. They felt young people would be more drawn to a current-day story instead of one from the mid-century. Whether you read the book or watch the movie, you are sure to be moved by this story of deep love.

A Treasure Deep – by Alton Gansky (2003)

a treasure deep

Perry Sachs didn’t have any plans to go on a treasure hunt. He was just following his conscience, trying to help an old man in an alley who was being beaten. The old man clutched a satchel tightly, and would rather die than give it to his attacker. Later, the old man and his family entrusted the contents of the satchel to Perry, and the treasure hunt was on.

What I enjoyed about this book was the tight-knit camaraderie and decency of the small group that worked on the excavation project. More than once, the small crew turned to God in prayer. Praying when they were about to begin, and praying when they ran into trouble. It was refreshing to have a story where people did their jobs with excellence and great care. I also liked the local mayor, Anne, who seemed like an adversary at first, but became an ally. There was enough action and suspense to keep this story moving right through to the end.

Lord Foulgrin’s Letters – by Randy Alcorn (2000)

Lord Foulgrin's Letters

Randy Alcorn has written some outstanding Christian fiction over the years. My favorites are “Deadline”, published in 1994, and “Safely Home” in 2001. ┬áHis characters were well-developed, and easy to relate to. Mr. Alcorn has also written a number of non-fiction books. Most of his books, both fiction and non-fiction, include themes about heaven, hell, and unseen spirit beings (angels and demons).

https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2014/04/09/safely-home-by-randy-alcorn-2001-2011/

Of all his books that I have read, this one seems to have the most emphasis on demons and spiritual warfare on this earth. Lord Foulgrin is the name of the fallen angel/demon who writes letters to an underling, advising him how best to get humans to never become Christians. Or if they are already Christians, he shares ways to tempt them into sin and lead them away from their faith. The storyline moves back and forth between the daily life of Jordan Fletcher on earth, and Lord Foulgrin’s rantings and ravings. ┬áThis book is basically a more modern version of C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Letters”.

I did enjoy the storylines about Jordan and his family. They seemed like an typical family struggling with things common to the American culture. But the overly-long monologues by Lord Foulgrin quickly became repetitious. They were just the same thing over and over. I think the scenes with Foulgrin could have been cut in half, and would have been more effective. Sometimes when you sound like a broken record, you lose your audience. But in spite of the repetitiveness, it was still a very sound spiritual novel.

 

Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus – by Joyce Magnin (2012)

Harriet Beamer Takes The Bus

With an old-fashioned name like “Harriet”, you are correct in assuming that this novel is about an older woman. Yes, Harriet is a senior who has been widowed for a few years, then has her fourth bad fall at home. Her son Henry and daughter-in-law Prudence convince her to move into their home in Grass Valley, California. At this point, Harriet realizes that she has never really traveled anywhere (since her husband hated to go anywhere) or had any adventures, and this is her last chance to do something independently. She decides to skip the easy way to California (plane), and instead take the slow way, using public transit as much as possible.

Harriet zigzags across the country, going anywhere that sounds interesting. She carries nothing with her but a small rolling suitcase containing a few sets of clothes, a good credit card, and a brand-new smart phone to help her find lodging, food, and directions. The entire book is a delightful, humorous tale of the places she visits and the people she meets along the way. Most of her stops are enjoyable, although she hits a few snags. In each place she stops, Harriet looks for salt-and-pepper sets, talks to God and writes letters to her husband Max.

I loved the way Harriet tried to interact with everyone during her trip, young or old, no matter how different they seemed from her. She had the true spirit of Jesus in her as she talked to people. If you’re looking for a simple, fun read, look for this book at your local library!

 

 

Jordan’s Crossing – by Randall Arthur (1993, 2003)

Jordan's Crossing

I read this book because it was highly recommended by someone I am close to. The story-line is about a man named Jordan who takes a position at a university in Germany that pays extremely well, which will enable him to pay off a rather large debt. His wife Susan, son, and daughter are all dead set against moving to a foreign country, but Jordan drags them there anyway. Nothing goes right. They have a terrible time finding housing, their plans to home-school their daughter are cancelled because it turns out to be illegal there, they have a hard time finding a church that they feel at home in, and Susan is lonely and depressed. Their son finds a nice girlfriend, but even that turns out badly when a gang of Jamaican drug dealers slits their son’s throat and gang-rapes the girlfriend. The rest of the book is mostly Jordan in a rage, vowing vengeance and trying to find the gang so that he can kill them.

What I liked about the book was the theme that God is with us, no matter how terrible the situation we may find ourselves in. The older man who had also lost members of his family kept trying to point them to God for strength, and for the ability to forgive and re-build their lives.

What I disliked about the book was the total grimness of the story-line from beginning to end. I’ve read plenty of books with sadness and depressing themes, but those books usually mixed in some happiness and lighter portions to balance it out. It’s called “comic relief”, and theatrical performances as well as movies and books use it to give the audience a break from the constant negativity. “Jordan’s Crossing” was just depressing from beginning to end. Although I finished the book, it would probably not be one I would recommend.