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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Last Christian

by David Gregory
illustrated by

Religious/Secular Content : -Christian, secular setting
Adult Content : -Yes
Mature Topics : -Yes
Strong/Inappropriate Language : -No
Magic/Witchcraft : -No
Disrespect/Rebellion : -No (although this is iffy)
Drug/Alcohol Use : -Yes
Violence/Abuse : -Yes
Educational Value : -
Positive/Negative Message : -

Product Details
This may contain spoilers- if you don't want to know what actually happens... well, you've been forewarned *wink*

From the back cover: 
In the future, it's possible to live forever -but at what cost?
A.D. 2088. Missionary daughter Abigail Caldwell emerges from the jungle for the first time in her thirty-four years, the sole survivor of a mysterious disease that killed her village. Abby goes to America, only to discover a nation where Christianity has completely died out. A curious message from her grandfather assigns her a surprising mission: re-introduce the Christian faith in America, no matter the insurmountable odds. 
But a larger threat looms. The world's leading artificial intelligence industrialist has perfected a technique for downloading the human brain into a silicon form. Brain transplants have begun, and with them comes the potential of eliminating physical death altogether -but at what expense?
As Abby navigates a society grown more addicted to stimulating the body than the soul, she and Creighton Daniels, a historian troubled by his father's unexpected death, become unwitting targets of powerful men who will stop at nothing to further their nefarious goals. Hanging in the balance -the spiritual future of all humanity. 
In this fast-paced thriller, startling near-future science collides with thought-provoking religious themes to create a spell-binding "what-if?" novel. 
And that sets the stage for this book. What attracted me to the book was the title: The Last Christian. Christianity can't 'go away', we think. Christians who've read their Bible for any length of time would find this a very improbable scenario. 

This book is definitely fiction; science fiction at that. Let me start at the beginning with this book. I won't be really telling you what the book is about but will tear it apart for things you'll find in it. I'm sure I will miss some that others will find when/if they were to read it. You will probably get glimpses of what I thought of the book as you read.

It begins with what appears to be a surgical procedure about to be completed. But it's obvious the patient does not want the procedure done. Personally, I think this is the first instance of Mature Topics because it completely disregards another person's ability to choose. Some others may not feel the same way. In the category of Mature Topics I do place ethical decisions such as prolonging life beyond the natural years, or more profoundly, downloading the human brain to a silicon form! The book covers so many technological advances that were absorbed, fictionally of course, into the medical field but all, in my opinion, are a way of playing God. 

The story continues with Abby, the sole survivor of a mysterious disease that ravaged her village, seeking help from the outside. Here is where some may find first instance of Mature Topics- all the people die, even the children. It isn't graphic, thankfully. The 'disease' simply makes those affected get dizzy, become forgetful and then finally fall into a coma that leads to death. As we go through the book, there is more death: Abby's grandfather is thought to be dead at the start, Creighton Daniel's father appears to have committed suicide and a few other people suspiciously die.

I think in terms of Mature Topics, death is the most pronounced -besides man trying to play God. Those who begin to try to piece together the mystery that surrounds Abby, her grandfather and some messages that have tried to be hidden, sometimes meet an untimely end. Abby's grandfather is not dead as we are initially made to believe but he is killed by the end of the book. Along with almost all of the 'main characters'. A lot of death but fortunately, not graphic.

Abby eventually travels to the United States where she has a cousin living. Here is where I think may be some Disrespect. Lauren, the cousin, is so cold and just rude, in my opinion, that I might label it disrespect. Abby is subjected to the same attitude a few times throughout the book. One instance, where Abby is having dinner with 'important' people (senators? and if not, they are politically affiliated with Lauren in some way) who are condescending but use  the phrase, "I mean no offense," before or after each derogatory statement or question. The general attitude of a multitude of characters I found to be just rude. 

Adult Content is found a few places throughout the book. The first mention of it is, I believe when Abby is getting the tour of the house of her cousin's "life partner" (they don't marry any longer but instead have 'life contracts' that are renewable- more on that in a bit). There is a teenager lying on a couch, apparently sleeping. Fortunately -again- there isn't much in the way of description here but we do learn that she was having s** with her boyfriend in virtual reality. The teenagers of this fictional reality are allowed virtual reality privileges such as that when they reach the age of thirteen! We thought Facebook was bad... 

Other instances include references to Creighton's possible previous virtual reality 'jaunts', if you will, of the same nature. As the book progresses, Creighton and Abby become close and there are scenes of kissing and description of strong feelings -nothing beyond kissing. They do have a conversation in which Abby tells Creighton that she will not have s** with him and he accepts that. 

We also are given a brief description of a strip club where two of the characters meet at a point or two in the book. Other instances of Adult Content could include the rocky relationship that many of the characters have currently or had in the past. Lauren and her life partner, Sabin, are one such couple. The writing just exudes tension when they are together. And many of the people of the time have kids with their life partners but when their contract runs out, they leave and have no relationship with their children. It is equivalent to divorce for me.

A problem with the people of this book -this fictional future- is that they are amoral. They have not right or wrong any longer.

The  Alcohol use is referenced quite a few times throughout the book: people have beer or wine with their meals. It mentions a bar and a dance club with the characters ordering and drinking. I think that the virtual reality in this book can be considered a 'drug' because there are places that have been designated as safe places for those who have lost their jobs, families, everything because they are addicted to the virtual reality. They stay in virtual reality and have nothing else because of it.

The Religious/ Secular Content is evident from the start to finish. It is written as a secular world with Christianity underlying everything that is to happen in the book. It makes reference to a few other religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jewish, and some others that I can't recall off the top of my head- but the main character (Abby) refutes them all as false religions. 

I personally had a problem with the Christian message trying to be put forth here but not all will, I understand. Basically, the message states that we need to let Jesus live in us and through us, more importantly than realizing that we are sinners in need of salvation. It was stressed that we cannot attain what God wants us to attain because we are imperfect -agreed. But it gave the impression that we should really stop trying so hard. Almost like a meditate and you'll get that 'peace' you need- and all will be great! 

It just didn't appeal to my beliefs as accurate or appropriate. 

Finally, the Violence. It is throughout the book but in spurts. It might be near the beginning but we don't see it consistently; it's strategically placed perhaps. When things feel calm and moving along nicely then bam! Some violence- generally with guns or a fist fight. There are only three accounts that I recall without looking, which means there are more. 

I didn't mark Educational Value or Positive/Negative Message because I think both of those are going to be up to the parent (or reader if not a child). The scenarios in terms of technology and the laws of the future are indeed thought provoking! Some of the references in the book to 'history' (which would still be our future in reality), I can see being a possibility -if things continue the way they are. The initial feel of the book could be either positive or negative, depending on how one looks at technology's role in life. The same with the view of Christianity -first is it 'extinct' but it has a chance of living on in a small group of people touched (not physically) by Abby, the woman from the jungle. 

I will tell you that I read this through in one day. I was captivated by the book. I didn't feel the characters were well done -not developed completely. And as I stated, I don't necessarily agree with the Christian message put forth by the end. But, I found it to be a very interesting read. Surprisingly, I don't recall any Strong/ Inappropriate Topics. (I will mention there is supposedly the Tolerance Act of 2036 that makes it illegal to say anything against another person's religion- you'll be thrown in jail if you do- how's that for tolerance!)
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Phillipians 4:8