Thursday, October 04, 2007

BOOK REVIEW: THE HARRY POTTER ALTERNATIVE

BIRTHPANGS: THE SERIES, BOOK ONE, FIDELIS

Written by Anthony R. Horvath, Published by Suzetto Enterprises, Publication Date: November 16, 2006, Trade paperback, Amazon Price: $10.85, 308 pages.

Fidelis by A.R. Horvath is an action-packed fantasy novel filled with imaginative descriptions of what the United States and our culture could be like in the future if it continues on its current course. While the story is a fictitious fantasy, the picture it presents is quite realistic and believable.

Following a series of nuclear explosions in this country, the various groups who are at war for control over the county are similar to many of the political factions in our nation today. For example, there are the Rangers, a group of men and women throughout the country who support pro-family middle class values. This group never gave up their hunting rifles as their pre- nuclear war government had commanded. There is another group resembling the conniving, crafty politicians of our day, who pretend to want what’s best for the people, but are more concerned with what is best for their own needs. This group is in possession of machine guns.

Put quite simply, Fidelis depicts the battle of good vs. evil. Similar in nature to the writings of C.S. Lewis and JRR Tolkein, Fidelis bears a Christian theme, includes Scripture passages, and is rich in Christian symbolism.

The main character in Fidelis is Fides, (Latin for “faith.”), a young husband and father, living in the heartland of the United States, in Terra Haute, Indiana, at some unknown time in the future – with his beautiful, devoted wife, Melody, and their four children.

Fides is an affable, responsible, and hard-working man who is primarily concerned with protecting and providing for his family. Fides is a construction worker and work is scarce in these hard times. When he is offered a lucrative job in Peoria, IL, he readily accepts it, leaving behind his family, just as an outbreak of a rare and devastating new disease occurs. His intuitive wife has misgivings about him leaving, but Fides knows this is an opportunity he cannot pass up, so he embarks on his journey with his neighbor and co-worker. And, what a journey it is! It is a journey that involves danger, suspense, and adventure – one that tests his faith, his fortitude, and his ability to persevere – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Little does he realize how much this “job” will impact his entire future.

During his absence, a nuclear war takes place and the entire world, has changed drastically - all factions in the nation have risen up in battle against one another. In the United States, some of the major cities have been destroyed and are in total devastation. However, Fides has been ill while all this was taking place and he awakens from a coma when the nuclear strikes have ceased, to discover a broken world. Realizing that he has been separated from his family for a long time, he embarks on a journey to unite with them, encountering numerous obstacles and battles on the way. His journey reveals the horrors and wonders of this altered world, as he awakens to realizations about his own soul.

Early on in his trip, Fides quickly bonds with Fermion, an intriguing and mysterious character, who, in addition to possessing some nifty super powers, seems to have many of the answers to secrets of survival in this new world. Fermion possesses a type of wisdom that initially puzzles Fides, but which later proves to be very useful to him. Along the way, Fides meets several other individuals struggling for survival in this new world – many of whom are basically good people, others, evil by choice – who teach him valuable life lessons and help build his character. He joins forces with different groups (both male and female) who support healthy moral choices, and becomes a strong battle warrior, learning what truth, love, hope, fidelity and obedience are all about, under Fermion’s guidance.

There is a prophetic message presented in this first book of seven in the BirthPangs Series. Will all the disasters and the devastation that have occurred as a result of man turning away from God lead to the end of the human race? What will happen if things become worse and people continue to turn away from their Creator? Fidelis only hints at the possibilities, but it certainly poses a relevant concern for the future.

In his clear, easy to read writing style, Horvath presents us with a story that grabs our attention from the first page and holds it until the very end. He introduces us to an interesting array of characters, which he describes in picturesque terms, often using colorful dialogue and action to effectively allow the characters to “speak” for themselves. Many of the scenes are described in considerable detail, allowing the reader to clearly envision the scene as if it were being shown on a movie screen and to analyze possible outcomes. As an aid to the reader, Horvath adds a handy concise index of character and group names at the back of the book with a line or two identifying each one. This is particularly helpful if the reader needs to put the book down and return to it later.

Fidelis appears to be most appropriate for teenagers and adults due to the detail in the story and the reading difficulty level. There are many exciting battle scenes in the book, which make it particularly appealing to males. Both Christians and non-Christians alike will find Fidelis enjoyable, as it focuses on man’s universal struggles of good vs. evil and truth vs. propaganda. Fides is an action- packed, imaginative fantasy that subtly instructs, entertains, and intellectually provokes the reader. It is fascinating reading.

Fidelis is available for purchase from http://www.birthpangs.com/, as well as Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. An excerpt from the first chapter is available for free online at http://www.birthpangs.com/download-part-of-chapter-1/. The website hosts a spin-off role-playing game and a discussion board frequented by the author.

~ copyright Jean M. Heimann October 3, 2007

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