Recently I was contacted by Christian Geek Central to see if I would be interested in reviewing a scifi audiobook by a Christan author, for the Christian Geek Central podcast. Which of course I was, so I was given a free review copy audiobook and have voluntarily written this review. I was not required to write a positive review and this reflects my honest opinion of the work.
In the spirit of this being an audiobook review, you can also listen to me reading it on the aforementioned podcast, episode #511! Go to time stamp 20:07.
I have not read or listened to many Christian scifi novels yet, so I’m not very familiar with a broad spectrum within this genre – if there is one. So I was very curious about Mission Trip, a novel by John Theo, which will take you 6 hours 41 minutes to finish in audiobook format.
I had never read anything like the novel’s concept before, as far as its Christian characters are concerned: in the near future the USA has grown increasingly left-wing totalitarian, the constitution has been abolished, and the persecution of Christians was so harsh that they fled the country, following a tech genius who found Christ and built a large underwater city. This is only the backdrop; the actual story takes place decades after that, near the close of the 21st century. By that time the USA as we know it doesn’t exist anymore. The world, or at least the former USA and something called New Europe, is filled with sin and ruled by evil, there are no more personal freedoms and the only law seems to be Survival of the Fittest. In this story, unexpectedly, it’s the Christians who are doing fine. They have high tech & state of the art science departments, personal liberties, weapons and they are living isolated from the rest of the world. Or, as the publisher’s summary reads:
In the year 2077, the United States has become a post-apocalyptic footnote in the world history books. The only place freedom still exists is in a shielded underwater city called The Atoll, where a group of Christian refugees are trying to start over. The Atoll inhabitants are hated for their freedoms and hunted for their technology, but even in their protective bubble, treachery still finds a way in.
©2016 John Theo Jr. (P)2016 Clean Reads
My thoughts: “Intriguing concept”
As I already stated above, I was intrigued by the concept of a world where Christians for once were not the weak ones. With such a concept the story could have gone in several directions I think; in this case, the Christians are just like they are today.
When they are severely persecuted they withdraw into a utopian society they’re trying to build and maintain, seemingly unaware of history’s many lessons that there are no such things as man-made utopias. They of course still have to struggle with their own fallen natures, raw emotions, sinful thoughts, secularism, etc.
I liked the realism of this scenario. I found it perfectly believable that, once Christians successfully retreated into a literal safe bubble, one of their main spiritual issues would ultimately become a lack of love for the rest of fallen mankind. The same goes for the differences in character and belief. Christians in secular stories are often painted as if from one template, and usually not a very positive one. Not so in this book. There are people who are strong in their belief, people who have doubts, and people who are tempted by (and have fallen to) secularism and atheism.
I also had some issues with this story. The characters remain fairly two-dimensional, by which I mean there isn’t a lot of character development. Most of them are of one opinion or mindset and they stick to it throughout the novel; people do not seem to learn anything that results in actual character growth. I liked the main character well enough, although he too wasn’t really fleshed out, but it made it difficult for me to root for any of the other characters. There were several decisions made by characters that seemed mainly convenient as a plot device (I can’t say more about that because I don’t want to spoil anything). And lastly, the novel doesn’t seem to have made up its mind about whether it’s a study of certain political and philosophical issues, or an action scifi adventure. Both could be interesting; focussing on one or the other would have helped the story gain its feet, imho.
Narration by Karey James Kimmel was fine, I liked the narrator’s voice and the tone he chose. There were some issues with accentuating the right words in sentences, which tended to distract me, though not for long. His portrayal of female characters could be better.
In conclusion, on the one hand the characters could have been more three-dimensional. On the other hand, the concept deserves praise for its originality and may lead to very interesting sequels.
All in all this story was perfectly fine.
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Check out the trailer for Mission Trip: