This thriller pits demons against a dwindling crop of Christian soldiers for control of the world.
Today, Josh Heartley, who had a heart transplant five years ago, turns 10 years old. On his way home with his parents from his grandmother’s house in Morristown, New Jersey, the family’s car is struck by another vehicle on the highway. Josh’s mother, Linda, is crushed in the car while her husband, Benet, is free to examine their unconscious son on the ground. When an 18-wheeler bears down on them, Benet blacks out and wakes up on a stretcher. Investigating the situation is Lt. John Levi, a former undercover cop who must track down William Ridmoore, the vanished hitchhiker who supposedly caused the car accident—and the man whose apartment is the scene of what might be a spontaneous human combustion. Meanwhile, famous psychic Salome Sue Richardson, star of the reality TV show Medium on Call, has apparently lost contact with the spirits who have helped build her career. She’s also been helped by a financial depression that’s sent people flocking to spiritualism—and away from churches, which are now taxed by the IRS. At Memorial Hospital, Dr. Julie Bond decides to study Josh—who has a spine injury—because the boy describes near-death experiences that could prove the existence of the soul. In this sprawling work that collects the first two novels of the World War Spiritual series, Thomas (Cluster, 2015) deftly paints a world in which Christians have been backed into a corner by the belief systems of other cultures—like that of Linda’s ancestral village in Central America—and by demons. These demons, including Karnelo, the “lust-addict spirit,” have been possessing people for hundreds of years, using human tools to instigate everything from the Inquisition to organized pedophilia. Thomas’ prose presents the complex story evocatively, as in the line “Linda’s chest rhythmically lifted and sank, like water in the mighty ocean, which kept its secrets in the dark deep.” But the author shies away from two of Christianity’s largest historical concerns—Islam and homosexuality—missing the chance to engage a larger audience.
A haunting and intricate religious fantasy that’s a bit too cautious to truly soar.