Thursday, June 25, 2009

Review: Absence of Faith, by Anthony Samuel Policastro

A narrative that incorporates elements of a mystery, disaster, medical thriller -- even, at times, a romance novel; I found Absence of Faith a good read.

Dr. Carson, while at the wheel, goes into a trance -- or is it death? It seems like he's descending into hell, is torn limb from limb by a demon dog, subject to intense fire, and meets the devil. He is heroically rescued by his wife from the river, but his vital signs fail. He awakens in the morgue.

His return to life is explainable as it's happened before in medical history. What mystifies the doctors is that his skin is burned all over as though he'd really been burning in hell.

Other people in the small religious community begin to have the same experience. It's dubbed the Hell Fire Syndrome.

Dr. Carson manages to hold to the view that it's no more than a rare unknown disease. For the local community, good religious folks who believe in heaven for the righteous, it has other implications. Mass hysteria is one of the results. But that's not all. There are the Satanists who take maximum advantage of the situation -- or are they the cause?

Has Satan won the ultimate battle between good and evil? Is it a curse? Is it a medical phenomenon? That's the mystery. At the end of the roller-coaster ride, Policastro brings it to a satisfying finish.

As a mystery and a thriller, it pleases. You've got your money's worth. No worries there.

After following Dr. Carson, his wife and medical colleagues for several chapters, we meet Kyle and Chantress. Kyle's introduction is a vivid display of textual special effects. Through a spirit medium, he learns deep dark secrets about himself that promise an interesting story.

Chantress is an old hand in New Age and Occult, whereas Kyle, despite the role he's to play, is a newbie. Chantress explains at great length, the difference between Satanism (the dark side), and New Age, or the light side. She considers herself the latter. With Kyle in toe she separates herself from the other, starts a new group and invites a few like minded friends along.

During some of the passages it seems as though the author has a lot to get off his chest and it behoves his characters to accommodate him. Examples: Chantress' explanation as to the reasons people choose to get into Satanism or New Age, later, Dr. Stoke's goes on about the value of religion in society, then there's an entire Sunday sermon, quoted verbatim. At times, I didn't know whether the book was pushing New Age, Occult, or Christianity.

The intimate scenes between Kyle and Chantress told me it definitely wasn't the latter. It's not a book you'd recommend to the youth of your local church. In this respect, it seemed like a romance novel (to me anyway). It goes from blissful love, to betrayal, to the kind of emotion that can only happen when a dream, once-in-a-lifetime relationship has gone horribly wrong.

That's not a spoiler. The medium, at the beginning, will have already told you that would happen.

The book feels authentic in many ways: as a medical thriller; the social turmoil in the small community; though I think the Satanists, as depicted here, are probably an urban myth. Certain sources that we used to rely on for this, such as The Satan Seller, have been discredited as fraudulent. (Covens and witches do exist -- as Wiccans, worshipping the goddess Diana, not the Biblical Satan. They’d probably choose to identify with Chantress in our narrative rather than the dark side).

However, like gun slingers of the wild west and KGB agents in Venice, they make a good story, and Anthony Samuel Policastro has played his hand well.

Robby Charters

Book Proffesionals

I've joined a new Authors' group. To join, I had to agree to read four books by other authors on the group, and write a review of them. Hopefully, that means that Pepe will be also be reviewed four times.

My next post will be the first review I've written. Books reviewed here won't necessarily fit into the theme of this website, but as a more-or-less professional service. At least, the review itself should tell you if you ought to like them or not.