Friday, September 16, 2011

REVIEW: The Paradise Prophecy by Robert Browne

While reading this, I described it to friends as Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons meets John Milton’s Paradise Lost, by way of James Rollins. That comparison seemed to make almost as many turn their nose up as turn the page, but I still think it fits . . . for the most part.

Where it differs (and does so significantly) is in its zealous desire to celebrate the supernatural aspects of religious mythology, rather than challenge them. Being the unrepentant heretic that I am, that insistence on embracing religion was a bit of a stumbling block early on, but I came to appreciate the ways in which the mythology of the book diverges between the bible and Paradise Lost. Yes, it was a little preachy and heavy-handed at times, but the quality of the writing was such that I was willing (eager, even) to carry on.

The pairing of oh-so-secular Agent Bernadette Callahan and eccentrically-religious Sebastian LaLaurie is a bit clich├ęd (think Scully and Mulder), but their dynamic works well. These aren’t just two characters who exist to be at odds with one another, or to butt heads over questions of mythology, but reluctant partners who help one another to break out of their rigidly-defined roles. Both develop quite nicely throughout the story, and not necessarily in ways you expect. I really liked Callahan, and as much as we have our personal issues, I came to respect "Batty" LaLaurie.

As for the angels and demons, I liked them right from the start. They’re actual characters in the story, not just forces of nature. Their intentions may be flawed, and their actions may be unacceptable, but they’re honest. These aren’t perfectly good or perfectly evil beings, but supernatural denizens of Heaven and Hell who are just as imperfect as all mankind. Instead of simply dismissing them as biblical fictions (which would have made for a tough read), I was able to accept them with the same wiling suspension of disbelief that allows me to enjoy vampires, witches, and aliens.

Well-paced, with more than enough action to excuse (justify?) the biblical philosophy, this a story that I enjoyed as much as I had hoped, and far more than I expected. It’s clear there are more adventures in store, and I would be delighted to continue following the story to its apocalyptic conclusion.

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