GODBOMB! by Kit Power (Sinister Horror Press, September 2015 release) ISBN # 9780993279393.
Disclosure: A digital copy of GODBOMB! was provided by the author at no charge as part of a Goodreads promotional group read, with the hope of an honest unbiased review.
Writer Kit Power’s debut novel is an impressive examination of individual reactions to a shared event that puts the reader directly into the characters’ heads, sharing their deepest thoughts and fears.
GODBOMB! is an intense reading experience that raises a lot of questions about religion and faith, and doesn’t attempt to answer them or persuade the reader to change their own beliefs. Author Power skillfully poses the questions without letting the reader learn of his own personal philosophy. GODBOMB! doesn’t preach. It just brings up these subjects while engaging the reader in an edge-of-the-seat page-turner. It’s a high suspense tale that fits within the horror genre, but is more of a thriller with horrific elements.
Among the myriad of questions: Does God exist? Does God care about the everyday lives of human beings? Does God ever talk to people? Would God intervene if his faithful subjects were threatened? Suppose an event with fatal consequences occurred in a House of God? Would God try to influence the outcome, or make his presence known? Or, as the Biblical Book of Job asks, would God provide justice in the face of human suffering?
The setting for GODBOMB! is a born-again church revival meeting in North Devon, England in July 1995. Upwards of 70 people of various ages, backgrounds, interests, and needs gather to hear the words of the preacher. The preacher is a man of questionable motives and beliefs who looks for an opportunity to convert a non-believer, and picks the wrong person from the audience to join him on the stage.
This particular young man is more than a simple atheist. He has serious doubts, and craves answers. He wants visible proof of God, and the lack of it has made him both edgy and angry. He wants God to speak to him directly. If it doesn’t happen during the revival meeting, he’ll detonate the bomb strapped to his chest.
The rest of the novel focuses on the reactions of the hostages and their counter-moves to stall the bomber or disable him during the six-hour ordeal. Rather than flit around such a large group, Powers focuses on eight individuals and shares their point of view, switching back and forth between chapters as the events play out. From a 30-year old man suffering from alcohol withdrawal, and a young woman in a wheelchair whose parents keep dropping her off at these meetings while hoping for a miracle, to a young couple of faith expecting their first child - - the characters are very different and vividly realized by Powers. Readers will learn of their beliefs and values, their background, their faith or lack of it, their willingness or reluctance to act, to do something in the face of fear or just submit.
GODBOMB! would be a very powerful presentation on a theatrical stage. We wonder if Powers began this work with the intentions of writing a play. In the table of contents, the major characters are identified and described in a section labeled ‘The Players’. Regardless, this section makes a handy reference for the reader to refer back to as the novel continues to shift between character points-of-view.
Not every character gets equal time. Some are more fully realized than others. The preacher, who seems helpless to sooth the troubled mind of the bomber and ineffective at convincing him of the existence of God, is taken out of the picture early in the story. There’s not quite enough time on the stage for the readers to really get to understand him, although Powers reveals enough to leave a bad taste in the mouth, like we’d just sampled the wares of a snake oil salesman rather than a true evangelist.
Likewise, the young bomber also remains a bit of a mystery. We don’t even learn his actual name until much later in the story. Incidentally, his name is Isaac, the same name of the Biblical son of Abraham whom God asked to sacrifice to him. While many of Isaac’s decisions are abrupt and brutal, Powers does not portray him as a person of true evil. He’s determined to carry on with his ‘plan’ but sometimes becomes confused by events, and is capable of being emotionally moved by the actions of others, to become sympathetic to their condition, and even brought to tears and sobbing. While Isaac is more than capable of hurting others (and quite viciously) he also attempts to assist when one churchgoer has a seizure and later when the pregnant woman’s water breaks and delivery begins.
His accomplice is also lacking in the amount of detail provided for the other members of the cast. Although we can guess at certain aspects of his character as he wavers in his commitment to Isaac’s cause. The thought is that Powers is withholding this information deliberately, perhaps so readers don’t relate as well to these two characters. Powers is certainly capable of portraying them in glorious detail, as evidenced by the fine job he does with the others. We feel it’s a missed opportunity. The book might be even more powerful than it is if the reader was provided a bit more insight into why and how the bomber came to his decisions to disrupt the revival with his demands.
Powers has the writing ability to drop the reader directly into the mind and body of the hostages and make us feel their fears and anxieties, their moments of hope as well as doubt. Just when readers may be getting comfortable and empathizing with a character, that’s when Powers goes for the gut-punch and awful things occur. There are also brief moments of love, of faith, of understanding - - and we get to share those with his characters as well. The birthing scene is especially well done, particularly the excruciatingly long paragraph describing the pains of labor.
GODBOMB! is not a story for the squeamish, as there are plenty of horrific occurrences throughout the story. As you may suspect, not everyone survives the encounter. Some you may feel deserve what happens to them, while others regrettably end.
There are no numbered chapters in GODBOMB! Rather, each section is subtitled with either a reference to a book of the Old or New Testament or a Biblical character. It becomes a fun extra exercise to try and match up the headings with the events that occur in each chapter. It’s not necessary to understand them to follow the story. We weren’t inclined to do that much research, but some of the chapter headings were more obvious than others or it was easier to make a connection. For example the chapter where Deborah, a heroine of sorts, is introduced is titled Esther (a heroic Jew in exile in the Bible). The book of Luke details the origins and birth of Jesus Christ. Perhaps coincidentally, the chapter is which Emma gives a painful birth on the church floor is titled Luke. The book of Jude was the next to last book of the New Testament. And, the chapter closest to the end of GODBOMB! is also titled Jude. Of course, the ending chapter is Exodus.
When it comes to finding evidence to support the existence of God, most readers are going to find GODBOMB! inconclusive. Skeptical readers are not likely to have their opinions changed. Those who have faith are not likely to lose it. Several characters in the story claim to have previously spoken with or heard from God (some sincere, others not). Others state or interpret their actions or decisions during the ordeal as having been motivated by God’s hand. However, there is no heavenly intervention or divine occurrence to offer any conclusive evidence. Nothing is proved, or disproved.
Astute readers may suspect the final resolution of the story, as there are a couple chapters that foreshadow, or hint at what may occur. We were a bit disappointed initially, but after looking over our notes in preparation for this review and upon further reflection - - we are satisfied.
An event occurs during the novel that could be interpreted as a minor miracle. A character seemingly incapable of action receives a moment of hope. From that brief inspiration the character is moved to take steps to protect and preserve one of the most innocent members of the cast. Out of the multitude of theories about a divine presence is one that states God has no intention of interfering in human affairs. Yet, he may have judged and made a decision to save only those who are truly worthy. In the case of GODBOMB!, that would be a small group indeed. Powers doesn’t indicate any of this, preferring to leave it up to reader interpretation. Given a choice, we will always prefer to stand on the side of hope.