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What would you do if one day you woke up to a world full of alien invaders – but only you could see them? When Drew Carter agrees to help his nerdy friend reconstruct a science experiment for accelerating light, a plasma explosion threatens to leave him permanently blind. By some miracle, Drew regains his sight, but more than the return of his vision and his new superhuman abilities, he is horrified to discover that there is an all out war going on around him: one only he can see. Thus begins Drew’s quest to discover who these dark and light invaders are, and most importantly, what they are fighting for. If you’re looking for your next sci-fi read with a twist, or if you are a fan of Peretti, this one is for you!

One of the first things we find out about Drew Carter is that he is not a Christian. Life has dealt him many a hard blow, firstly with the death of his father at the age of twelve, the subsequent death of his grandmother, and – just when he thought life was just starting to look up again – the death of a school friend in a car accident that he was responsible for. Everyone in the school community blames Drew for his friend’s death, and the only people willing to stand by him is Ben, a nerdy kid he once rescued from a humiliating scene in the school cafeteria, and Sydney – a peculiar girl with an irrational belief in God that Drew cannot understand. The three eventually attend the same college together, where Ben becomes the chief assistant to a scientist experimenting with the idea of accelerating light in order to see into a different dimension.

After the strange disappearance of Ben’s mentor, he and Drew attempt to make the LASOK (Light Accelerator by Stimulated Optical Kinetics) work, when it catastrophically explodes, rendering Drew blind for a time. It’s only when his sight returns that he discovers the capabilities of the machine have been transferred to his eyes, and he can now see into another dimension: a dimension filled with towering dark warriors with black swords, and strange soldiers of light at odds with each other that mankind are completely oblivious to. After Ben – driven by paranoia – goes missing, Drew realises that the only way to work out what has happened to him and who the invaders are, is to find Ben. However to find him, Drew must go deep into the heart of Chicago: a place thick with invader activity. With the help of Sydney, Drew makes new discoveries as he searches for his friend, some that will lead him into the greatest peril he has ever known, where the lives of those he cares about most are at stake.

I have read several of Chuck Black’s junior books (the allegorical Kingdom series), and whilst I appreciated them from a younger reader’s point of view, I wasn’t sure what to expect of his entrance into the world of YA fiction, not to mention Christian YA fiction. Yet I have to say I was impressed. As a fan of Frank Peretti’s fiction on spiritual warfare, I appreciated this new scientifically believable spin on the idea of not only the reader seeing into the spiritual realm, but a human character. The book opens with a well-paced briefing of our main character, with the first several chapters covering the major events in his life up to the present quite succinctly. I’m a fussy reader. I love a great setup, but I hate extensive exposition. So I was pleasantly surprised by how well this book walked that fine line; managing to set the stage perfectly for the story without boring you to tears with information.

Drew’s character as an unbeliever is a convincing one. You can’t help but be drawn to him and recognise he’s actually a great guy, with plenty of understandable reasons for being sceptical of any deity. He was far from the stereotypical atheist characters you find in most Christian fiction, especially since this one is actually the protagonist. The supporting characters are also well written. Whilst fully prepared to guffaw loudly at the plastic “Christian chick” girlfriend entering stage right, I admit I had to eat my words. She was… incredibly decent. In most pieces of Christian dystopia, I have felt the author to be rushed; that sense of I need to hurry up and get the guy saved by the end!-ness. Funnily enough, any rush in the story actually comes from the reader, since Drew is completely oblivious to the fact that the “invaders” are angels and demons. Except for several scenes, this book could easily pass as a secular read. It’s a highly ironic and brilliant plot.

Whilst the writing was good, there were some places where I felt the dialogue was clunky, and it would cause me to re-read it in some places to get the gist of who was actually doing the talking. Other than this minor point which stops me from giving it five stars, if you read and enjoyed Peretti’s This Present Darkness, are a fan of scifi/dystopian YA fiction, or have an interest in the spiritual, you should definitely pick this one up.

Jasmine

Published on 6 August, 2016. Last updated on

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ABOUT ItB REVIEWS

Into the Book was born out of a crazy idea of a blog that'd provide book reviews for teens. There aren't very many book review websites out there exposing awesome, high-quality Christian literature, and there are even fewer that target teenagers. Since 2009, we've been providing high-quality book reviews to the world through our blog. Into the Book has grown around reviews since then, but it remains our oldest project.

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