Sunday, March 20, 2011

Review of Pete Turner's Whisper a Scream

Whisper a Scream is a Christian horror novel by Pete Turner, a friend of mine. The story concerns Solomon Noche, a man with a haunted past and an uncertain future. I'm not sure on just how much the author drew from his own experience, but Noche is a psychologist and a former Christian rock singer, the same as the author. But unlike Turner himself, Noche is suffering from deep personal loss: his wife and children died in a terrible accident, and Noche has never quite come to grips with this dreadful tragedy. In the prologue, we are treated to a flashback sequence in which, while in his father's church, the young Noche witnesses a man becoming possessed by a demon who identfies itself as "Miyah." The incident hints that Noche may harbor some type of sixth sense, as he is the only one who sees what's really happening. As a grief-torn adult, Noche finds himself blaming God for his family's loss (a coping strategy that is, unfortunately, quite common, even among Christians), and, in spite of his own psychiatric training, now finds himself drifting away from his relationship with Christ.
His real desscent into darkness begins, however, while routinely mowing his front lawn. He uncovers the entrance to an underground passage in his front lawn, which, naturally, he sets out to explore. What he uncovers is evidence of a sinister Druid-like cult which once throve in his isolated town of Retesville, including a sacrifical dagger, an pagan altar, and a strange journal belonging to a minister named Elija Darius. Excerpts from said journal are interspersed throughout the novel, giving tantelizing clues to the past. The cult is of Dagon, an ancient near-Eastern fertility god opposed by Yahweh, and who demands the blood of children. The journal reveals that Darius has witnessed these very atrocities. Has Noche really uncovered as sinister chapter in Retesville's history, or is his sanity, loosened the loss of his loved ones, finally beginning to slip?
There is an interplay between dreams, visions, and reality here that is never entirely clear. Are these visions merely products of a disturbed mind, are they truely demonic manifestations, or is Noche somehow experiencing the literal past? Noche also becomes haunted by visitations from a creature identifying itself as Miyah, which resembles a hideously deformed child. While the back-cover blurb is ambiguous as to whether Miyah is good or evil, the demonic nature of this creature is fairly obvious almost from the first time it shows itself. Both the Dagon cultists and Miyah refer to Christ, derisively, as "The Nazarene," and boast of the their power over him. Noche's bizarre experiences take on an increasingly real quality, until he finds himself facing what might be the ultimate nightmare for a Christian. Rest assurred, Noche DOES make the correct moral choice here, but on second thought, he is spared what might REALLY be the ultimate choice--if it were his family, not himself, that were threatened. If that had happened, I'm afraid I'd be rather confused, and I'm somewhat grateful Sol was spared that. I'm convinced Christ would not ask us to give up the lives of anyone else. On the other hand, He did ask us to deny our own lives, including our families, for His sake!
But now I've gone off on a tangent, as the story does not address that issue. What it does address is Sol's ability to renew his own faith in the Lord. At one point, he prays, saying in effect that there must have been a reason for the Lord's taking them. This of necessity assumes that God WAS rsponsible for the deaths, but for a higher purpose tha we humans, with our flawed wisdom, are unable to discern. This, in itself, is a matter or controversy tying in witht the "problem of evil"--does God control everything that happens, including all natural catatrophes which result in the loss of human life (even to the point of banishing free will, as the Calvinists beleive)? Does he simply not interfere (as a rule) in the natural world. This explanation actually works for me, becase if God were continuely suspending the rules of nature to save lives, the world could not function! I'd say that God basically leaves things alone--but back to the review.
The ending to the story is entirely unexpected, and it really came as a shock. I won't reveal anything here, except to say that it emphasizes that Noche's entire experience was indeed ultimately to bring him back into God's grace. The incident which occurs in the very last paragraph left me slightly confused, though. Part of the message that I got here was that Noche's allowing himself to blame God had damaged his relation with Christ, and had thus left him open to demonic attack. Now that the has renewed his relationship with Chirst, how do you account what occurs in the final passages?
All in all, this was a very thought-provoking read about the reality of spirtual warfare.

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