REVIEWED: The Beach Head

beachhead

The Beach Head by Christopher Mari. (Christian SF Novel, 2017).

This one is an explicitly Christian-based post-Apocalypse in science fictional form. Our main characters, John and Kendra, are officers with New Philadelphia’s Defense Forces. This great walled city houses what inhabitants believe to be the last surviving remnants of the human race. We’re told that, as per the Book of Revelation, the world as we know it was destroyed by armies of Fallen Angels and humanity almost entirely slaughtered.

After an indefinite interlude spent in a featureless white area, a comparative handful of survivors (we’re told EXACTLY 144,000) emerged from 12 huge storage containers to find themselves on a mysterious beach. More winged Angels called Orangemen appeared to tell them they’ve rescued and hidden them there from the attackers, so they can rebuild the species. They’ve provided the humans with simple tools and some books (including the Bible in multiple languages). From then on these ‘good’ Angels will visit every 2 years, to check on their progress–while making sure the ‘bad’ (i.e. Fallen) ones are kept away.

About 50 years pass (in Earth years?). The author is a bit too cagey for my tastes about that (and a few other details). But anyway….The survivors scattered into the countryside at first. Then, having encountered dangerous wild animals, they decide to reassemble and build a walled city near the beach. They develop a sort of Christian Utopia (very peaceful, but pretty rigid in their religious dogma) and live out their lives. Two new generations arise–the Firsters and the Seconds (referring to them being the First and Second generations born on this new/improved world). Only a handful of the original adult population remain by the time of the Angels 26th visit–when they hand over a family of 4 humans who claim they’ve been in suspended animation on Mars since humanity was attacked, and the protective Angels just found and revived them.

It was a sudden and unnecessary jolt to me as a reader when it’s revealed that the initial disaster happened far enough in our future that there were human colonies on the moon, Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System until the attack.

Religious controversy arises over whether the ‘Angels’ are in fact mere space aliens or actual parts of the Revelation-based orthodoxy that has ruled the community. Our heroes, John and Kendra, are sent out into the wilderness (which the insular city folk have left almost totally unexplored) in hopes of finding out what’s really going on.

They make disturbing discoveries that challenge their beliefs–including finding out that, unlike what the elders had told them, not EVERYONE decided to build their Utopian city. Oh, and while the stars aren’t in the familiar constellations, it’s pretty certain that their ‘new’ world is in fact Earth (brought back from the searing doomsday the surviving 144,000 remember getting totally destroyed).

Along the way, John and Kendra fall in love (of course). There are many interesting adventures as they face an array of dangers (including extinct Ice Age predators). And they face personal doubts and bad memories. The book certainly holds reader interest, but I was left only partly satisfied in the end. Sure, it was good to see aspects of Revelation treated as symbolic or metaphoric. But in context, the climactic image is (dare I say it?) a little pat.

This is Mari’s first solo novel, coming one year after he co-authored an SF novel with Jeremy K, Brown (Ocean of Storms). I haven’t read that one, so this was my first exposure to the man’s work. It’s overall capably written and somewhat provocative. But I found myself with nagging questions that either weren’t answered or which I found myself unable to accept/believe in the answers offered.

Did this so-exact census of the original Remnants include the folks that wandered off to form their own society? Why did the city-building Remnants apparently decide to lie to their descendants about the others breaking away? How did this(apparently) random sampling of survivors from all over Earth (and beyond) communicate if they came speaking multiple languages (and if they didn’t, why the detail on Bibles in different languages)? Okay, they were given only simple tools, etc–so written books, none of the computers, etc the Remnants took as normal back before the attack–but why are none of the books newer than the 1960s (when we’re told the attack dated from OUR future and we’re given an exact date)?

Just too many mental (and yes emotional) bumps in the road for me to recommend this book wholeheartedly. Instead, a cautious and ambiguous report from me: This isn’t a bad book or a failure, but I’ve got to say it felt like it could’ve been much better.

 

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