In the midst of a hotly contested election, news anchor John Barrett has more than his share of stresses; he increasingly feels like his role in the media is less journalism and more entertainment; he’s estranged from his ex-wife and his college-age son; his father is a crazy fundamentalist Christian that’s harassing one of the political candidates. And then . . . well, on top of all that, what to make of these strange voices, these strange hallucinations, these . . . visions? It’s a great premise; Peretti said he wanted to kind of transplant the idea of an Old Testament style prophet into modern times and it’s a great hook. And when the book plays around with ideas of superficiality in culture and news as entertainment, the book feels, well, prophetic. If this stuff was true in 1992, twenty-five years later, it’s almost painful to read. The book throws itself too heavily into a contrived political cover-up revolving around a dangerous abortion clinic and it’s in the abortion narrative that the book feels the most false. It’s a bit of a pet project for Peretti as we say from Tilly and it feels pretty out of place here. The “modern day Old Testament prophet” angle would have worked better had the story been about financial corruption or big business & poverty; these were things the actual OT prophets railed against. The book is pretty preachy and it paints its villains very one-dimensionally, men-hating feminists, promiscuous pro-choice activists, etc. and it doesn’t really acknowledge the negative sides of the pro-life side. Peretti does create two really great characters who are on the side of the truth of the cover-up being revealed that are pro-choice, however, so that’s something I suppose. They’re actually two of the most interesting characters in the book, a newsroom boss who finds himself caught between the corrupt big brass and the loose-cannon reporters, and a crusading female reporter who won’t be swayed in her convictions about being pro-choice. Also, on a small side note, kudos for having the two main reporter characters be a man & a woman and not shoehorning in a cheesy romance; they care about each other and respect each other and it feels like a real relationship. Does the good premise and good characterization of the main cast outweigh the cartoonish villains and the preachy tone of the forced plot? It’s a toss-up. The book would be helped immensely if it was tightened up; at almost five-hundred, very closely set pages, it’s simply too long. 2 ½ stars.
tl;dr – Peretti’s got a killer premise & does some good character work, but the plot is forced & the politics are preachy; the prose is punchy, but the book could stand to lose a hundred pages. 2 ½ stars.