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I have been an avid reader from as early as I can remember. Since becoming a Christian in my early 20s, my passion for reading led to specifically Christian fiction and this has developed into reviewing them on this blog. I love reading new author's novels or author's who have not had many reviews or exposure and giving them much needed encouragement where appropriate.   
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Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Strong Delusion by TJ Allen


Strong Delusion

The book revolves around two separate missions to the planet Mars roughly 75 to 100 years into the future. The time is some time after the western world has gone through a major war and is left partially decimated by that war (Evangelical War) and plagues. The technological advancements one would expect with time were stunted due to the war and plagues. There are two missions because not enough people could be transported by one vehicle. However, they have one commander and live in the same station. The mission is funded primarily by private funds though manned by military personnel. On Mars, several of the team members see what they call angels or demons. Two of the crew profess to be Christians and are the only ones who can see “flaming men” at first.

One Christian, Jeremy is constantly quoting scripture, yet he is not living what he professes. He dabbles in paranormal psychology and conforms a lot to the spiritual fad and peer pressure of the day. The other Christian, known by his last name, Hernandez, started out quiet then begins to realize that they could be living close to the last days of human existence before the coming of Christ. He becomes more verbal as he realizes that he has not been true to his faith and beliefs. The more embolden he becomes, the more hostile some of the crew members become. Both are children of Godly families, but both handle the strange happenings on Mars differently.

The commander of the mission Colonel Quirinus goes through a transformation that brings on what he calls his mission and his destiny that needs to be fulfilled. “Enlightened” to this new truth, he returns to earth and as his new power and intellect is revealed, he is heralded as the latest Messiah. Scripture would recognize him as the antichrist.

The history of the “City Square” and other “conspiracies” around life on Mars are discussed as well as some theories of previous life on Mars from a “biblical” standpoint. The team goes through a series of demonic attacks. However, angels are also present in their lives. The overall theme of the book is to explore a possibility of how the Anti-Christ if he were to get his power from Mars, would get such power and how it would be used. It further explores how the Rapture of the Church can be explained away as an alien phenomenon. Though the story is purely fictional; woven in the story is scriptural truths. Some of the arguments dealt with are akin to those that Christians have faced or will face in their lives.

This book is a parallel story to other books that I have written or are working on. These books form an ongoing story from different angles. This is the first of several.

The Guru's Review:

I was asked by the author to review his debut novel pre-release. I am very glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed Strong Delusion. It is a gripping tale combining the genres of science fiction, fantasy, eschatological fiction with the supernatural, demon possession, spiritual warfare, angels, and demons.

As is common in the fantasy and science fiction genres, there needs to be world building or modification of existing worlds to suit the plot and/or themes the author wants to explore. Similarly, it may be necessary as well to provide a prologue that gives some history or back story that supports this world building and themes and contribute to the realism and credibility of the story. Allen does both in this novel. The prologue provides essential information on the spiritual side of this novel as well as providing a brief backstory as to why this mission to Mars was planned. Allen also explains more of this spiritual history in an early chapter and this is suitably placed to add further depth and credibility to the world building. The description of the physical world building is not a new one, as Mars exists, including some of its structures, such as the Face, the D&M pyramid, the City, Tholos, all of which is collectively known as the Cydonia Mensae or Cydonia for short, but he has added a few creative elements to Cydonia that support his alien/supernatural themes and plot lines that contribute to the plausibility of these. Allen has used this as a convincing backdrop for his plot to be further developed.

It is from this that that Allen sets the scene right from the first chapter that keep you reading. I found this very encouraging seeing there was going to be many topics, twists and turns covered (from reading the book description). This is where some authors introduce too much too soon and the reader gets frustrated and struggles to keep pace and join the dots as the author intended, but not so with this novel. Having this first chapter open with a scene that is instantly intriguing and mysterious and not what you are expecting grabs your attention and makes you turn the page and keep turning. You are instantly in this story and the pace and timing of events flows well keeping you absorbed in the events.

Allen wastes no time explaining what the Mars mission is all about, introduces the characters, their rank, the teams, some of their personal history, and who the two Christians (New Order Believers) are, the description of their headquarters/base and technology and then lays the foundation for the supernatural, edgy, speculative themes that pervade the rest of the novel. Once Jeremy and Dianna discover what is underneath the pyramid the plot really takes off and the entire crew is no longer searching for rock samples and primitive forms of life.

It is here that the pace quickens and the character's lives are turned upside down, the reader is not aware of their surroundings and where Allen comes into his own as an author. The rest of this novel is the culmination of his writing mission, where his love of science fiction blends well with him being a Christian and his love for end time prophecy and the supernatural influenced by Billy Graham, Jerry B Jenkins, Tim Lahaye, Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker.

From this point on, I became much more engrossed in this novel as Allen introduced these edgy, speculative themes of alien/demonic beings, their attacks on the crew, and the possession of their commander and another crew member and the reason these demonic beings have revealed themselves in relation to the future of the earth and mankind. Allen uses this backdrop to introduce the biblical worldview to explain their occurrences and what their motives are and this becomes the springboard for the Gospel to be presented to the crew by Hernandez. Allen presents this very well, without it standing out from the plot as preachy or in excess where it frustrates the reader and becomes counterproductive. Instead, Allen has integrated the Gospel and the Bible's eschatological answers to support the plot, shows the spiritual deficit of the characters and their need for God in response to this alien/demonic gospel being presented to them and mankind. I applaud Allen for presenting the Gospel as it is, holding nothing back and showing through the character of Hernandez, the power of the Gospel and not to be ashamed of it, despite being ridiculed and attacked by one of the demonic beings and members of his crew.

There is one very important message Allen expounds in this novel between the two Christian members of the crew. Once Hernandez realises who and what these aliens beings are and what their agenda is, he becomes sold out for the Gospel and does not compromise it in relation to these demonic attacks and their deceptive gospel or the ridicule and humiliation from other crew members. He becomes an evangelist to the crew, explaining the Gospel to the crew in relation to who these aliens are and what they are doing, even resulting in the conversion of one of them. The other Christian, Jeremy Johnson, is the opposite. He believes in God only in his head and not his heart, and has allowed himself to dabble in other paranormal activities, and so compromising himself and his faith. It is no surprise then, that when the Rapture occurs, he is beyond remorse and regret as he realises too late that he has compromised himself despite his strong upbringing in the Word by his grandfather and the warning of an angel that he needs to choose who he believes as he does not have much time to do so. Such a sobering account of what lies ahead for Christians who profess to have a relationship with Christ, but spiritually and in reality, they do not, and suffer the eternal consequences. Again, I applaud Allen for including this spiritual reality as this is important and essential in the study of end times (eschatology) from a biblical worldview.

I have said this in many previous Christian novels, that I believe Christian fiction should entertain, edify and educate the reader, whether Christian or not. For the Christian, it should edify or strengthen their relationship with Christ, while entertaining and educating them in that particular theme of the novel; for those who don't believe, it should point them to Christ and offer them His eternal hope, or encourage them to consider Christ and His Gospel as much as they allow this to happen. For me, Allen has done this well. If he continues to maintain the standard he set in the novel in the remainder of his writings then he will be an author to follow knowing the reader will be entertained, edified and educated.

I understand from the author's website that Allen has spent 3 years researching for this novel and I can see much evidence of this. This very much adds credibility to Allen as an author and expounding the themes of this novel in order to not just entertain but edify and educate. His website also contains a lot of other information and resources to back up everything he has depicted in this novel and it is not such a bad idea to check this out as this novel is being read. It is good, for example, to see the photos of the structures that make up Cydonia that I mentioned previously.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. For his debut, Allen has created a well researched, well laid out novel that I believe he achieves what he set out to if by reading the resources in his website is any indication. I look forward to the next book in this series.

Highly Recommended.

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