In Padilla’s debut novel, a gifted cancer researcher begets a talented son who fights a great evil.
Dr. Robert Benson, a skilled biologist and personal physician to world leaders and celebrities, combines his own natural remedies and spiritual teachings to help cleanse bodies of disease. However, his oft-stated goal is much greater: to find a cure for cancer. He falls for a patient’s daughter and later fathers two talented children. The eldest, Joe, grows up studying swordplay and Bushido, and combines these with his father’s teachings of “a peace eternal” to become an infallible heroic figure. Shortly after Benson finally discovers a cure for cancer, he’s murdered by an ally-turned-enemy. The situation leaves Joe to battle for humanity’s survival against the demonic new leader of Israel, Mr. Natas. The novel struggles to find its tone, and its prose often seems emotionally removed, even uninterested in its subject matter. Readers may find this attitude particularly strange given the opulence of the novel’s fictional world, which is full of art, secret societies and exotic locales—all portrayed remarkably plainly. The story introduces readers to such arts as ballet, fencing and Bushido but never delves very deeply into them. It also loosely ties the titular “peace eternal” to death and Newtonian concepts but leaves it unclear how it’s pursued or achieved. Characters are similarly underdeveloped; all are singular in their focuses, as if merely avatars of their repetitively stated goals. Joe, in particular, seems to have no will of his own; he excels at everything and wants for nothing, until he’s pointed in a particular direction by another character or divine intervention. If the story had led him to his ultimate challenge sooner, the last section of the novel might have seemed less rushed.
An underdeveloped thriller with an abrupt conclusion.