Friday, June 15, 2007

The Last Reunion

by E. Daniel Nusbaum, M.D.
& Mary Ann C. Nusbaum, Ph.D.
(iUniverse / 0-595-39614-3 / October 2006 / 280 pages / $17.95)
Can Doogie Howser whip Damien's butt? The morality play begins on the doorstep of an Indiana orphanage on a frozen Christmas morning. A newborn baby is discovered as blue as the ice covering the ground, but he miraculously survives. The Last Reunion is the biography of the mythical, mystical Jim Hoeven, whose destiny is prophesied with Bible quotations at the end of every chapter. Like Doogie Howser, the television character of the early Nineties, Hoeven has been born with an IQ level that allows him to finish high school four years early and retain a respected position in the governor's office at the Indiana state capitol at the same age. The devil has been waiting for a long time to enter into a final battle with his nemesis. The office of the modern equivalent of the evildoer is in New Orleans, from where he repeatedly commands a council of his henchmen to dispatch with the nuisance Mr. Hoeven as the hero moves from a frozen cradle to the U.S. Senate. The whole plotline is basically the flip side of The Omen. The reader is easily reminded of Superman as a boy, as Jim Hoeven discovers and utilizes his exceptional strength, charm and good looks for, dare I say it, good. The satanic forces of evil battle their way to the end of the story, hoping to win control of the world once and for all.

The Last Reunion will most surely please fans of the current religious fervor that has swept across America like a Reagan Presidency. Fans of a more challenging bent will see the cracks in the armor. I don't think much of the cover. The text is too block-like and the red background and image collage leave me a little blah. The cover's okay, but it would never encourage me to buy the book. I understand the author's pointed obsession with the Bible verses, but their inclusion at the end of every one of the thirty-two chapters slows down the pace of the plotline. I realize this is a fiction novel pitched to the faithful among us, but, as a critic, I had hoped for more.

The story promises in the beginning to give The Omen a real run for its money. The authors know how to really tug those heartstrings with sympathy for orphan kids, and they understand the conversational, show-don't-tell style equally as well. One of the authors is a Doctor of Psychology with a theological background and the other is a surgeon. These professional experiences are developed and displayed quite effectively in the religious context of the plot and the hospital scenes described in detail. Where the book falls short is in the credibility of the elements of the story outside the medical and religious arenas. Werewolf-like shapeshifters attack in several scenes, but a nosy CSI team never appears to question the incredibility of the deaths. Miracles have been surrounding Jim Hoeven ever since birth, yet no detective on the local police force questions the miraculous events. You could just walk up to the Governor of Indiana's front door and knock, or call him on the phone and he would answer. He has no personal secretary or house servants outside the one who always seems to be working undercover for the devil and getting cleanly away with it. The good guys know she works for Satan, but never seem to find a reason to fire her! When miraculous events save the day, the lead characters just matter-of-factly state that everything's just fine because Jim prayed for it. The media behaves as if it was still The Fifties. In summation, I think The Nusbaums were so enamored with the Biblical context of the story that they short-shifted the opportunity to write a modern fable fraught with mystery and imagination. As I read through the book, the excitement waned a little as the predictabilty grew.

Dr. & Dr. Nusbaum are to be commended for a fine first effort. The story was originally conceived back in The Seventies and the final manuscript was not released until the next millennium. The long gestation period shows. The book is maturely crafted and edited. The error count, although not minimal, is entirely excusable due to the fact that the errors are of the least obtrusive variety. Please do not be put off by my criticisms, particularly if you are a fan of The Da Vinci Code or other religious-based fictions of recent years. I found the writing quality to easily match that of The Da Vinci Code. My main criticism is that Reunion could use a little more of Da Vinci's mystery with its sermonizing. I give it four crucifixes for evangelicals or three bloody fangs for the wolf pack.

1 comment:

veinglory said...

Nice cover art