Thursday, July 27, 2017

Book review: Randy Alcorn's Deadline

My summer began at Memorial Day and for most people the summer still has 5 weeks to go until Labor Day, the traditional ending of the travel and stay-cation season. My summer break from school ends on Monday, when I return to work on July 31. I've been making the most of the time off, after spiritual duties and pleasures, to engage in some of my favorite past-times: reading and movie watching. Here is a review of one of the books I've read this summer.

Randy Alcorn's Deadline

First published in 1994 and re-released in 2009, I'd bought this book on sale for my Kindle.

Alcorn has written The Treasure Principle, a small book of his that I have and We Shall See God: Charles Spurgeon's Classic Devotional Thoughts on Heaven which I have read. Alcorn is most well-known for his book Heaven, which explores in detail descriptions of heaven gleaned from all over the Bible, along with quotes and commentary from famous preachers and authors. Coming in at 560 print pages, Heaven is a hefty book, one which I've also read. Deadline was the first piece of Alcorn's fiction I've read.

Deadline starts well with a fast-paced scenes setting the foundation of three men's life-long friendship, all of whom figure prominently in the book, though reporter Jake Woods is the central character. The other two characters are Doc (Gregory) and Finney. As we learn of each man's background, Alcorn also does well describing the scenes where Woods served in Viet Nam, getting inside the head of a soldier and a man. All three characters have been friends since grade school, and now all of them are near 50, established in their careers, married (or in Jake's case, divorced) and have children. Along the way Finney has become a born-again Christian, while Doc (Gregory) has evolved into an atheist. Jake is on the fence. Alcorn does well showing the difficulty in maintaining friendships with people who do not share Christ as a unifying thread.

Early in the book, there is an car accident with the three men in the car. The rest of the book is consumed with unraveling the mystery surrounding the car accident, which Jake learns was no accident.

Finney and Doc eventually die. The rest of the book shows scenes in heaven where Finney is, and one short scene where Doc is shown in his place of torment. Meanwhile on earth, Jake and his police friend Ollie Chandler work to solve the car accident mystery that killed his two friends.

Review:

On a Kindle you don't know how many pages you've read, only percents. I'd noticed that the first 1/8 of the book moved fast, the opening scenes among the men, jungle in Viet Nam, and the accident itself were very interesting and gripping. And then it bogged down. I read and slogged and read and noticed that I was only 17% through. I looked up the page length online and the print version is 448 pages.

Using Jake's interview and columnist skills as a pulpit, Alcorn exposits and expounds and preaches endlessly. As Jake the reporter gathers information for his column and interviews Planned Parenthood abortionists  or NOW women, his interviews go on for pages and pages, exposition that exists only to preach at the choir and do not push the story forward, are laden throughout the book. These lengthy scenes explore journalistic bias against conservatives, abortion, AIDS (it was 1994), homosexuality, and teen sex.

The book could have been cut by 200 pages and been fine. I noticed that Publisher's Weekly gave the book a good review in its original version but mentioned that Alcorn "is long-winded". I agreed with Amazon readers' few one and two-star reviews all mentioning the same thing- long winded preachy narrative bogs the book down.
  • "The book is more about "preaching" than it is about a story. I wholeheartedly agree with his stances, but way too much of it for my literary taste."
  • "Can you say...Get to the point..."
  • "I found this book to be boring and "preachy". The author goes on and on about abortion, teen sex, and the consequences of each. I am a Christian and I don't need a 300+ page book to tell me of all the arguments against abortion and pre-marital sex. This is like preaching to the choir, if I wanted to read on the subject I would buy a NONFICTION book on those subjects."
Since this was his first fiction book I thought maybe a good editor would help Alcorn with his next book in the trilogy, Dominion. Nope, Dominion is longer, coming in at 626 pages. The third book in his series, Deception, is 490. Really, no one needs to write a fiction book at 600 pages except maybe Stephen King.

I really enjoy a good Christian yarn but haven't read a good one since (and don't flog me for this) Frank Peretti's This Present Darkness. Alcorn can write well, as mentioned, the scenes in Nam and of the accident were great. The scenes at the end where the killers are hunting Jake are excellent, and several the scenes in heaven were breathtaking. But man, Alcorn needs a really good editor.

Not recommended.


2 comments:

  1. Sounds like I need to re-read the book. I read it back in the '90s when it came out and don't remember it being that much of a slog.

    I was also a young buck and would devour any writing, whether it was written well or not.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Matthew. I'm an editor also so sometimes these things get to me, lol. If you re-read it as perhaps apologetics, the pages of interviews and discussions about the moral issues etc, are good foundational treatises for how to witness. But as the entertainment it was advertised as, a 'heart pumping mystery' nope. ;) IMO

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