Monday, April 19, 2010

‘A Lever Long Enough’ by Amy Deardon – Book Review

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How many of you wish you could travel back in time to first century Jerusalem to investigate the death and resurrection of Jesus?  I know I wish I could!

Amy Deardon has written her debut novel, ‘A Lever Long Enough,’ with that premise.  Here is the description of the novel on the back of the book:

A small military team travels back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb…
The Israeli team, led by Benjamin Feinan, has exactly seventy-two hours to collect the video evidence.  Failure threatens the existence of Israel and may cause the world to slip into all-out war.
Drawn into a web of first-century deception and death, the only way to escape is for Benjamin to change the past.
In the present, a traitor attempts to sabotage the mission and seize control of the military complex.  Only Benjamin can reveal him, but he is trapped two thousand years away.
Even with a time machine, time is running out…   

When I read that description, my interest was piqued!

Amy’s book was based on her own investigation of the circumstances of Jesus’ resurrection.  This is from her website:

I took over a year on a personal quest to investigate the claims of Jesus' resurrection with the goal of destroying them. To do this I studied Biblical accounts of Jesus and numerous commentaries by believers and skeptics alike, listed the facts agreed upon, and began to explore scenarios that could explain what was known. To my surprise and considerable dismay, the evidence kept pointing away from naturalistic explanations and eventually formed a virtually certain case for the resurrection of Jesus. Finally I admitted defeat and became a Christian.

My first novel, A Lever Long Enough, combines my loves of technology and derring-do with the universal longing for transcendent truth. I believe there is a rational basis for this longing.

It is interesting how many people check into the facts, and come away as believers!  I can think of two of renown – C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel.

The title of the novel comes from this quotation from Archimedes of Syracuse, a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, investor and astronomer who lived 287 BC-212):

“Give me a lever long enough, and a place to stand, and single-handedly I can move the world.”

The main character in this novel, Colonel Benjamin Feinan, is employed by the Israeli Defense Force in the near future.  I am not sure exactly what date the book takes place, but I am assuming it is some time in the twenty-first century.  The third Temple had been reconstructed and animal sacrifices were recommenced three years prior to the events of this novel.  There was an interesting side effect of these events:

Arising close on the heels of the Orthodox, revival had been a groundswell of the followers of the Way, named for the term used by the first century followers of Yeshua.  Benjamin didn’t understand what precipitated it.  Was it just a slingshot reaction, the other pole of religious extremism?  The conversions seemed dramatic enough, though.  These followers accepted Yeshua – Jesus – as their Messiah, and never missed an opportunity to challenge the nation to listen to their claims.  (p. 9)

The world is a different place from the one in which we live:

Several years earlier, a worldwide depression had pulled most countries beneath an umbrella organization of the New World Order, initiated and held together by the charismatic United Nations leader Marc Raseac. (p. 12)

The followers of the Way were resistant to Raseac’s leadership.  Therefore, the FlashBack team’s assignment was to go back to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb, to refute the resurrection once and for all.

Being a seminary student, I was particularly fascinated with the first-century Jerusalem aspect of the story.  The four members of the FlashBack team – Colonel Benjamin Feinan, Major Sara Levenson, Captain Rebecca Sharett, and Major David Baum – visited the temple that had been built by Herod (it was destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70 CE).  That was a highlight to me.  They also visited what was purportedly the tomb in which Jesus was interred. 

An interesting aspect of the book is the concept of the Danan test.  Here’s its description:

The Danan test was a simple test designed to ferret out followers of the Way.  It had been named for the professor who had discovered a unique weakness in followers that made them self-incriminate with little effort. (p. 31)

The test was never explained or administered, so I don’t know what it entailed, but it sounded interesting!

One piece of the puzzle that I found fascinating was the actual time travel process.  Amy, who has previously done bench science research and taught anatomy and physiology at the undergraduate level, goes into scientific detail to explain the process.  Here’s a small example:

…With infinite dense energy and immeasurable charge, the linear accelerators spun the superfine cosmic thread that acted like ultra-dense matter.  The [time travel] pod stretched time-wise against the edge of the time-space solid.  In orbit around the Earth, the satellite strained against the graviton lever… Benjamin felt himself thrown into a void where he seemed to be floating; then the gravity was terrific, pushing him down, down against the seat. 
Space turned on its side to become time.  (p. 70)

Mrs. Deardon did a fabulous job in providing a fascinating portrait of life in the time of Jesus and his followers’ lives; she provided a lot of detail, which I appreciate!  I could picture the scenes, and could place myself in the scenes if I wanted to go that far wit it!  She also provided truths from the scripture of which the casual non-Christ follower who may read the book may not be aware, such as the secret trial in the middle of the night at the home of Caipaphas, the High Priest, and the excruciating pain from death on a cross (side note: the word is derived from the Latin word excruciare, from cruciare, to crucify; so it does literally mean "a pain like the pain of crucifixion").  Sara was wrestling with doubts about her doubts; she analyzed the facts analytically with her scientific mind (as the author, Amy, did in her own life).  In addition, the characters dealt with deep issues, such as where one’s soul goes when one lies.  As Benjamin, the skeptic, observed:  What a cruel trick this brief existence was anyway. (p. 159)

Mrs. Deardon explained how Yeshua shook up the Pharisees in His day:

The Jewish authorities, at the top of their own spiritual hierarchy, felt threatened.  Not only had Yeshua damaged a major source of revenue for them, but he also had called them hypocrites and vipers in front of the people.  He jeopardized their power and position; they wanted to eliminate this troublemaker, but didn’t know how to do it. (p. 112)        
I thought it was ironic that the present day state of Israel also felt threatened by Yeshua, going so far as to send a team to obtain evidence to refute His claims – just as the Jewish authorities did while He was walking among them.

The foursome’s time in first century Jerusalem was very exciting – lots of adventures and intrigue.  I thought Amy handled it very well.  I was not as interested as the political and military intrigue taking place in the subplot, although it was also expertly handled.  We all have our individual interests, and mine lean more toward the theological and philosophical than the militaristic and political (despite my bachelors degree in Political Science!). 

Despite all of my praise above, I have to admit that I had certain expectations for this book.  That being the case, when the book did not evolve as I’d expected it to, I was disappointed.  That is not to say that I did not enjoy the book, or think it was not well-written.  The truth is that Amy  did not write the book as I would have written it!  I am perhaps just a little too literal to have certain expectations from a speculative book of fiction.  It is certainly not fair for me to ‘lower the grade’ of this book for that reason.  But I do admit that I was disappointed by some of the turns that the story took (I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so will leave out the details).  In addition, the book ended rather abruptly.  I have since learned that there are both a prequel and a sequel in the works.  I hope that the time travelers make it to the right time period in one of those future novels!

You can order this book here.

This book was provided by Taegais Publishing for review purposes.

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