This is a novel about real world spying, relatively modern post-cold war espionage between nation states. It is written by a retired intelligence professional. I’m not sure anyone not interested in the genre would want to read it. Just as I would guess anyone who is interested in the genre would most likely read it. It is both violent and pro American, not as if those two characteristics go hand in hand.
What I liked
The story takes its time developing. It isn’t in a hurry. Which allows for readers to get to know the people as well as the places they inhabit. The story is multilayered with several characters having to experience life and make choices about who they are, what they want to accomplish, and who they ultimately may become.
The author goes after President Putin. Apparently, nobody wants to go after him in real life, at least it happens in this novel.
There is real suspense. There are harrowing encounters. The romantic aspect isn’t overdone. Enough interest is built that you definitely want to know how it all turns out.
What I didn’t like
Jason Matthews gives one of the main characters, Dominika Egorova, a gift of sorts, the ability to sense letters as colors. The diagnosis is that she is a synesthete, someone who perceives sounds, or letters, or numbers as colors. Eventually she develops the ability to read emotions and even detect deception and ill will by interpreting the colors she sees around other people. Fascinating. Yet how would someone best take advantage of this? To become a ballerina, apparently. So our challenge then is whether to accept how someone with this ability would use it. Would that Matthews had made a stronger case for why Dominika only uses it to survive internal office politics in Russia.
This is book one of a trilogy. Book two is Palace of Treason and book three is The Kremlin’s Candidate. While we certainly like trilogies when we can’t get enough of a story, this one left me wondering whether I’d ever read books 2 and 3. That isn’t a good sign.
Book Review: The Prophecy Con (Rogues of the Republic book 2), By Patrick Weekes
What you should know
Read The Palace Job(Rogues of the Republic book 1) first. It introduces all of the important players and is a better book all around.
The Prophecy Con picks up in the epilogue of The Palace Job an continues to tell stories about many of the characters introduced in book 1 and re-introduced to an extent in book 2. To appreciate the full backstory and understand who the characters are completely, you have to read book 1. But that’s a good thing.
In a realm where one part of the world is governed by an empire, and the other a republic, a war is building that could determine the future of both societies, and everyone in them.
What I liked
Author Patrick Weekes proved his ability to write enjoyable dialogue in book 1. The more of that I found in The Prophecy Con the more I liked it. The Palace Job introduced us to some very interesting, humorous, multidimensional characters, who are easy to appreciate. Weekes writes about them and takes great care in keeping them consistent to their values, as he reveals more about them, and as they deal with growing challenges in their relationships, and their struggles to survive against difficult odds.
What I didn’t like
There just wasn’t enough down time for me. The author seemed obsessed with frenetic action to the point where he gave no breaks between one violent conflict after another. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Even within each fight, he kept raising the stakes, doubling and tripling down within the combat to add doubt about the outcome and heighten the intensity. The problem with doing that, I found, was that not only did it seem like the characters needed more than two arms, two legs, and one head to cope with all the simultaneous assaults, I needed to be two readers to keep up with what was happening. That, I’m afraid, didn’t happen.
I want to be fair here, but book 1 didn’t fall into that trap. I’m reading, believing that the heroes will survive each onslaught, they got through the first book didn’t they? Yet with every line Weekes seems to try to get me to believe they have to do the impossible in order to be alive in the next chapter. If I was one of the characters, I’d offer to sacrifice myself, just to avoid all the suffering I’ll have to endure in the remaining chapters. Can a brother get a breather?
Another problem with the plot is that one, or more, its hard to tell at times, of the characters has the apparent ability to disguise themselves while knowing what everyone else is doing. Sort of like the fly on the wall, or having the ability to be completely undetectable. Some not only disappear, but they disappear into other beings. It’s a problem because these characters leave the reader guessing too much. Who are they? How many are they? They were so hidden I had trouble distinguishing them from each other. What is they’re agenda? Whose side are they on anyway? These secret characters wield so much control it seems like they’re outside the story. You never get to know what rules govern these mysterious beings, certainly not the same rules that apply to the more or less human characters. So they provide mostly frustration when I think they’re supposed to be adding suspense.
Not as much fun reading.
Questions raised in The Palace Job included what separated these two major powers, and how would the future be impacted by their differences? The Prophecy Con addresses these to some degree. However, the real question the book emphasized was who were the real puppet-masters? The significant leaders in the republic and the empire did not have enough intelligence or integrity to prevent them from being manipulated by anyone with more than an adolescent level of maturity.
Join me in a book (club) discussion. Each day we will cover the main concepts and questions of one of the chapters. I will summarize the points in each and offer my insights. You are welcome to comment. If you choose not to comment, you still may consider these and other points of interest to you. Feel free to do so on your own or with someone you know. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this experience. Shall we?
Why this book?
The introductions states –
What someone believes about God affects everything else he or she believes.1
It includes these 5 most critical questions in life:
Any book that rightly helps us figure these out is worth discussing.
What we believe about God is often referred to as a worldview
There are 3 primary worldviews about God,
Theism, Pantheism, and Atheism.
Theism = God made all
Pantheism = God is all
Atheism = no God at all2
The authors introduce us to the modern myth that religion is nothing more than faith (blind faith, some call it) and they include the parable of the 6 blind men and the elephant story as an illustration.
The point we are asked to consider is that all religious worldviews make truth claims. To the degree those claims cannot be completely 100% proven, faith is used by people to cover what doubts remain.
We should evaluate these claims with scientific and historical evidence.
One example the authors provide is
Truth claim: The universe had a beginning
Truth claim: The universe has always existed and did not have a beginning
Both claims cannot be true.
The book is a presentation of the evidence that allows us to decide which claim to accept as true. This passage capsulizes the authors’ premise:
“Yet despite these intellectual, emotional, and volitional obstacles, we submit that it’s not faith in Christianity that’s difficult but faith in atheism or any other religion. That is, once one looks at the evidence, we think it takes more faith to be a non-Christian than it does to be a Christian. This may seem like a counter-intuitive claim, but it’s simply rooted in the fact that every religious worldview requires faith – even the worldview that says there is no God.”3
The book systematically covers twelve points that show Christianity is true.4 I have summarized them below.
One of the closing points made by the authors in the introduction is that acceptance of Christianity is not solely based on proof that it is true. Many atheists and non-Christians refuse to become Christians because they are unwilling to live by the what they understand to be what Christianity espouses. The authors assert that God wanted it that way. Where there is room for choice. Here’s what they say is why God made the world the way it is in order that we have free will to accept or reject him.
God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling. In this way, God gives us the opportunity either to love him or to reject him without violating our freedom.5
I agree with the authors that God expects us to be knowledgeable about why we believe what we believe. I have found the Old Testament encourages wisdom. This is the type of book that helps us get exposed to more wisdom. I have also found that the New Testament encourages teaching and discipling other Christians and persuading non-Christians. This book should help with each of these.
What would you say on the points made in the introduction so far? The authors have promised to cover each of these topics in detail. Ideally, any questions you might have now will be answered in the chapters that follow.
1Geisler & Turek page 20 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
2Geisler & Turek page 23 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
3Geisler & Turek pages 24-25 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
4Geisler & Turek page 28 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
5Geisler & Turek page 31 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
There are two parables in the chapter, the judge and the servant king. Here is a synopsis of the servant king.80
This is exactly the problem God has in his pursuit of you and me – if he overwhelms us with his power we may not be free to love him) love and power are inversely related). And even if we retain our freedom, we may not love him but merely love what he gives us. What can God do? Here is what the king did:
The king, convinced he could not elevate the maiden without crushing her freedom, resolved to descend. He clothed himself as a beggar and approached her cottage incognito, with a worn cloak fluttering loosely about him. It was no mere disguise, but a new identity he took on. He renounced the throne to win her hand.
This is exactly what God did to win you and me! He descended to the human level – in fact to one of the lowest social levels possible – to that of a servant. Paul describes Christ’s sacrifice this way in his letter to the Philippians (2:5-8)
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Here are the answers to the five greatest questions we have.81
1. Origin: Where did we come from? We are created beings. Wonderfully made in the image and likeness of God.
2. Identity: Who are we? Since we are made in the image and likeness of God, we are creatures of supreme worth. We are loved by God and endowed with certain God-given rights and responsibilities.
3. Meaning: Why are we here? Adam and Eve were created in a state of innocence, but their choice to disobey condemned the human race to punishment in accordance with the infinite justice of God. Since that time, each of us has confirmed the choice of Adam and Eve through our own disobedience. We remain fallen state so that we can make free choices that will have implications in eternity. This temporal life is the choosing ground for the eternal one. Choices we can make that will bring glory to God, and may bring us eternal rewards, include:
a. Accepting the ransom Jesus paid in order to free us from eternal punishment and welcome us into his eternal presence.
b. Serving as ambassadors for Christ to help others make that same choice, and
c. Learning from our own sufferings to comfort others who suffer, and realizing that our sufferings enhance our own capacity to enjoy eternity.
4. Morality: How should we live? Since God first loved us, we should love him and others. In fact, the “whole duty of man” is to “fear God and keep his commandments”. This includes making disciples of all nations and enjoying the good things God gives us.
5. Destiny: Where are we going? God’s infinite justice demands that he punish our sins, but because of his infinite love he has taken the punishment on himself. This is the only way he could remain just and still justify sinners. His gift of salvation from eternal punishment is free to all the world. It cannot be earned through good works or any kind of merit. And God wants everyone to be saved from the eternal punishment we all deserve. But since he cannot force us to love him (forced love is a contradiction), each one of us must choose for ourselves whom we will serve.
Whom will you serve? God leaves that choice in your hands. Love knows no other way. In order to respect your free choice, God has made the evidence for Christianity convincing but not compelling. If you want to suppress or ignore the evidence all around you (Romans 1:18-20) – including that which is presented in this book – then you are free to do so. But that would be a volitional act, not a rational one. You can reject Christ, but you cannot honestly say there’s not enough evidence to believe in him.82
C.S. Lewis said it best when he wrote, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done, and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there would be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”83
What do you think were the author’s best points in the book? What weak points did you find in the evidence presented in the book? What would you consider doing to decide if you agree or disagree with what the book is arguing?
I will continue to read and discuss books like these with an open mind. I hope you will too.
80Geisler & Turek page 380 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
81Geisler & Turek pages 383-384 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
82Geisler & Turek pages 384-385 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
Book Discussion Day 15: Chapter 14 – What did Jesus Teach About the Bible?
Jesus gave the following assertions in his teachings
The Old Testament is divinely Authoritative. In 92 occasions Jesus and his apostles supported their position by saying “it is written .”
The Old Testament is Imperishable. Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will be no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
The Old Testament is infallible. John 10:35 :the Scripture cannot be broken.”
The Old Testament is Inerrant. Matthew 22:29 “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
The Old Testament is Historically Reliable. He validated Noah Matthew 24:37-38 and Jonah Matthew 12:40.
The Old Testament is Scientifically Accurate. While adherents of other religions may accept a complete separation from science Christians do not. Truth about the universe cannot be contradictory. Since all truth is God’s truth, religious beliefs must agree with scientific facts.
The Old Testament had Ultimate Supremacy. Jesus corrected the Pharisees and the teachers of the law by claiming that they should be obeying the Old Testament Scriptures instead of their own man-made traditions. Matthew 15:3,678
Jesus promised the New Testament
The 27 books comprise the only authentic record of the apostolic teaching we have. All were written in the first century by eyewitnesses or by those who interviewed eyewitnesses.
Jesus taught that the Old Testament is the inerrant Word of God, and he promised that the New Testament would come through the apostles. The apostles, who were authenticated by miracles, wrote or confirmed 27 books.
Since the Bible is our established standard for truth, anything that contradicts a teaching in the Bible is false. This means that any specific teaching that contradicts a teaching of the Bible is false.
The evidence revealed indicates79
The revelations of Judaism are true, but it is incomplete. It lacks the New Testament
The revelation of Islam has some truth. But it errs on some fundamental teachings, including its denial of the deity and resurrection of Christ.
Only the revelation of Christianity is the complete, inerrant Word of God.
Could the authors be wrong about all this? It’s possible. But in light of the evidence, skeptics and those of other faiths need to have a lot more faith than Christians to believe otherwise.
I think one point worth talking about here is why people willingly choose to reject what the Bible says. Is it because they have been given false information about the Bible that they allowed to convince them without finding out the truth for themselves? Is it because they haven’t taken the time to look at the evidence? Are they afraid of something? Is it, as the authors have said about atheists, that they know that if they acknowledge that the Bible is true then they no longer can justify being the sole authority on how they choose to live their lives? If so, is there a danger of them promoting and anti-Christian agenda on an unwitting public in order to influence political debate?
Another topic is related to agnostics. What should our attitude be towards a person who is questioning and open to the idea of God?
78Geisler & Turek page 357-360 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
79 Geisler & Turek pages 376 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
Book Discussion Day 14: Chapter 13 – Who is Jesus: God? Or Just a Great Moral Teacher?
Chapter 13 outlines the Old Testament prophecies that point to the Messiah and ultimately provide the evidence that Jesus, the only person to ever fulfill the prophecies, is God.
Isaiah 53 has an important prophecy of Jesus. Isaiah 42 has another description of him.74
Some of the other Old Testament verses about Jesus include
Genesis 12: 3, 7
Jeremiah 3: 5-6
The New Testament writers claimed Jesus was God.
John 1:1, 14
2 Peter 1:1
Luke 4:34, 41
Jesus himself declares he is God.
Jesus refers to himself in a manner that God would.
Jesus alluded that he was God in the parables he spoke
Jesus did things that a God would be able to do
He forgave sins Mark 2:5-11
He commanded discipling Matthew 28:18-19
Commanded new law John 13:34
Said to pray in his name John 14:13-14
Allowed people to worship him on at least 9 occasions75
Proofs that Jesus is God
He fulfilled messianic prophecies written hundreds of years in advance
He lived a sinless life and performed miraculous deeds
He predicted and then accomplished his own resurrection from the dead
Skeptics complain Jesus wasn’t more overt
They cite and misinterpret Matthew 19:7
They cite John 14:28 and Matthew 24:36 which may confuse them without a thorough understanding of the Trinity.
They object to the Trinity
The authors provide useful insight for the Trinity
Some Muslims charge that the trinity is too complex. But who said that truth must always be simple? As C.S. Lewis aptly puts it, “If Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.”76
Since Jesus is a morally perfect being – Chapter 7 – then anything he teaches is true. What did Jesus teach? What did he teach about the Bible? Chapter 14 answers this question.
The chapter addresses the claim people sometimes make that Jesus was only a man who was a great moral teacher. The evidence in the New Testament proves that is a false conclusion. Liar, lunatic, or Lord are the only possible conclusions a person can draw after studying the New Testament. Have you come across people who said they saw Jesus as a moral teacher but not God? How did that conversation go?
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would rather be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is , the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.77
74Geisler & Turek page 333 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
75 Geisler & Turek pages 344-345 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
76Geisler & Turek pages 352-353 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
77Geisler & Turek page 346 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
Book Discussion Day 13: Chapter 12 – Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?
Chapter 12 exposes how false each of the theories put forth by skeptics to deny the resurrection of Jesus.71
Hallucinations aren’t experienced by groups. Jesus did not appear just once to one person. He appeared in a dozen separate occasions in a variety of settings to different people over 40 days. A total of over 500 people saw Jesus after his resurrection. The tomb was empty. No proof of Jesus’ body was shown by those that executed him because they did not have his body, when so many people claimed to see him alive.
They went to the wrong tomb theory
The theory assumes that all of the Jews and Romans had a permanent kind of collective amnesia about what they had done with the body of Jesus.
The theory doesn’t explain the appearances of Jesus. Nor does it explain the empty tomb well. Most of the disciples were hopeless and fearful still after learning of the empty tomb. They did not believe that the empty signified that Jesus was alive until they physically saw him and spoke with him.
Swoon or Apparent Death Theory
Everyone believed Jesus was dead
Jesus was embalmed in 75 pounds of bandages and spices. That doesn’t happen to a live person.
It assumes he would survive 36 hours, unwrap himself, move a 4,000-pound rock from the entrance and get past Roman guards.
He would not have appeared to be in good condition when he was seen.
It does not account for Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus.
The Disciples stole the body theory
Were they hallucinating, or did they steal the body, which is it?
For some inexplicable reason, they stole the body n order to get themselves beaten, tortured, and martyred.
A Substitute Took Jesus’ Place on the Cross Theory
This is a popular Muslim theory. There is absolutely no evidence to back up this theory.
It should be noted that the Qur’an was produced over 600 years after Jesus. The New Testament has eyewitness accounts of what happened with Jesus only a few decades after his death and Resurrection.
So all those eyewitnesses who saw what happened, why do they say it was Jesus?
Why was the tomb found empty?
The Disciples Faith led Their Belief in the Resurrection
There is no evidence for this theory
I does not account for the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to over 500 people.
It ignores the fact that the scared, skeptical disciples were not in any frame of mind to invent a story they would later be put to death for believing. The resurrection appearances gave them their bold faith not the reverse, as this theory claims.
The New Testament Writers Copied Pagan Resurrection Myths
This theory fails to explain the eyewitness accounts at the time.
It does not explain the empty tomb
It does not explain the eyewitnesses who were martyred
It does not explain the testimony of non-Christian writings
It does not explain the facts which the vast majority of the scholars use to conclude the events were believed to have taken place by those who were present at the time.
The ancient non-Christian sources at the time – both Jewish and pagan – understood the resurrection was not a myth and instead argued at the time that they did not believe the accounts happened as Christians described.
There is no myth that is similar to Jesus’ resurrection
The first legitimate parallel story of a god rising from death appears about 100 years after Christianity began.
Skeptics Consistently Demand Evidence from Christians to Support the New Testament
The evidence to support the New Testament has been overwhelming, far exceeding any comparable historically documented event and proves true beyond a reasonable doubt.
Skeptics Have no Evidence to Support any of these Theories that doubt the New Testament
Their refusal to accept the New Testament accounts is based on philosophical bias against them.
How to View the Evidence
The theistic nature of the universe makes miracles possible
Ancient documents say miracles are to be expected
Historically confirmed eyewitness documents say miracles are actual
References of other ancient historians and writers confirm the basic storyline of the New Testament, and several archeological discoveries affirm the details they describe.72
Summary: One Solitary Life
Let us turn now to the story. A child is born in an obscure village. He is brought up in another obscure village. He works in a carpenter shop until he is thirty, and then for three brief years is an itinerant preacher, proclaiming a message and living a life. He never writes a book. He never holds an office. He never raises an army. He never has a family of his own. He never owns a home. He never goes to college. He never travels two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He gathers a little group of friends about him and teaches them his way of life. While still a young man, the tide of popular feeling turns against him. One denies him; another betrays him. He is turned over to his enemies. He goes through the mockery of a trial; he is nailed to a cross between two thieves, and when dead is laid in a borrowed grave by the kindness of a friend.
Those are the facts of his human life. He rises from the dead. Today we look back across nineteen hundred years and ask, What kind of trail has he left across the centuries? When we try to sum up his influence, all the armies that ever marched, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned are absolutely picayune in their influence on mankind compared with that of this one solitary life…73
It there was no resurrection, how could this life be the most influential life of all time?
71 Geisler & Turek pages 301-312 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
72Geisler & Turek pages 317-319 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
73Geisler & Turek page 324 I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.
John Grisham is in my short list of favorite authors alongside Tana French, Philip Kerr and Pierce Brown. My two favorites are probably Runaway Jury and The Client. I never finished Gray Mountain so that would not be a positive review if it came down to it.
Camino Islandis a heist story. It takes place in the book world. My complements to John Grisham for writing a novel about the novel writing business. A book about authors and their work can’t be all bad. I’m convinced this book is Grisham’s tribute to his readers and book lovers in general. It’s also a salute to independent bookstore owners
What I liked:
The story takes place in the summer. I chose it as a summer read. It’s so appropriate to have summer novels cover the summer season! It’s on the beach too. What a perfect setting for a summer read. The only regret I have is that I didn’t take it to the beach with me.
There’s a nice vignette depicting authors talking about authors and writing. Or not talking about writing. Apparently, writers come in two camps, those that talk about their writing and those that don’t. Either way this for me was the cornerstone of Camino Island. I wish there was more, a lot more, of the group of writers. That was a book I really could have gotten into. There wasn’t enough of that part of the book for me.
There’s a private insurance investigation group of characters in the story. This part also has potential. I could see an entire series of novels based on them. I doubt that John Grisham has the inspiration to do that though. He’s written so much already and I don’t think he needs the money. Oh Well.
What I didn’t like
None of the thieves involved in the heist were convincing. Having spent time around people who steal things, I have an impression of what they’re like. None of them were given much depth either. At least if they weren’t convincing I might have tolerated them had I gotten to know them a little bit.
I got the impression that Grisham was interested in writing about one character – Bruce Cable – a book store owner. He spends his time and energy on Cable. Just not enough on the others, any of them, to make the book enjoyable.
He has another character, a young author named Mercer, who is struggling to write her second novel. She is also struggling, financially and personally. However, her story would have meant a totally different book. I suspect Grisham didn’t find her challenges interesting enough on their own, so he folded her into this heist novel. Mercer has writer’s block. I am wondering if she’s a projection of the writer’s block Grisham had trying to write the novel about her, until he gave up and put her in Camino Island. All in all I expect Grisham fans will appreciate this book. If you aren’t a fan I can’t see any reason why this one would convince you otherwise.