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An American soldier wrestles with his faith in God as catastrophe suddenly envelops the world. 

Maj. Christopher Barrett is a soldier in the Army, part of an elite team called the Omega Group. He’s tasked with recusing a French journalist held prisoner by ISIS in Iraq, but the mission goes terribly wrong, and the journalist dies in the process. That reporter turns out to be the niece of the French prime minister, and as a result, the Omega Group, and Barrett’s future career, is imperiled. Meanwhile, Barrett struggles with his lack of connection to God, an absence of faith that has led to an estrangement from his deeply religious wife, Erin. He’s compelled to reconsider his commitment to God when Russia and Iran jointly attack Israel, an assault apparently biblically foretold, one of many opportunities for didactic sermonizing in debut author Phillips’ novelistic turn at proselytization. The aggressors are crushed inexplicably—they’re pulverized by massive hailstones and “rolling waves of lightning sweeping the skies, engulfing the enemy planes”—which leads some, including Israeli Gen. Benjamin Havid, to believe that the defensive response was executed by God. Absolute chaos ensues when millions of people suddenly disappear and die and fire engulfs the planet, signs that the rapture has arrived. Barrett continues to lead the Omega Group on dangerous missions, while the president of the European Union, Draven Cross, assumes the role of the Antichrist and, under the spiritual guidance of Satan, attempts to convince the world that it’s on its way toward lasting peace rather than final judgment.

The plot is mostly formulaic and shopworn—Christian eschatology grafted onto contemporary geopolitics. Israel and the United States are unambiguously the forces of good, Iran and Russia emissaries of evil, and the European Union a conduit of Satan. The plot itself seems like an afterthought or a device meant to deliver an instructive religious message about faith in a Christian God. Barrett reads long sermons from a religious soldier’s journal that are shared by the author at great length, and characters frequently share their own tales of spiritual devotion with aching earnestness. Phillips’ knowledge of the Bible is impressive—especially anything related to end times—and his work is a genuinely illuminating fount of information regarding the scriptural foundation of Christian final judgment. The novel, however, is more catechism than narrative, and the writing, especially the dialogue, is wooden and inauthentic. For example, here the president of the United States shares his own conversion experience: “God is easy to understand, Gabriella, once you allow yourself to see His presence all around you. I could have been the leader of the show-me-and-I-will-believe-it thought brand. It only took two minutes of being briefed on what the world was facing a few days ago for me to realize I just needed to see the world as it was, instead of how I wanted it to be.”

Heavy-handed preaching gratuitously embedded in an uncompelling novelistic drama. 

Pub Date: Aug. 13th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4003-2571-9
Page count: 324pp
Publisher: Elm Hill
Program: Kirkus Indie
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