/ spring 2019 / Reviews

(Sponsored Review) The Reluctant Disciple

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Ryan Kates imagines he controls his life. His paranormal talk show has launched him to stardom, despite the fact that he thinks his callers are all kooks. But as UFO sightings and missing-person reports proliferate worldwide, Ryan must confront the possibility that he’s as much a pawn as any of his listeners. But whose pawn? The answer may deceive even the elect.

Jim O’Shea’s The Reluctant Disciple stuffs its segments with haunted houses, alien abductions, international conspiracies, and eschatological prophecies. It’s an end-times mashup for the ages. But the action is often engulfed by exposition, and so many events are happening that entire subplots simply vanish, leaving some readers to wonder if the plots too have been beamed up.

Ryan, in his new capacity as a national influencer, finds himself beset by figures out of his past. Some of these connections are spiritual in nature, some romantic, and the former generally more compelling than the latter. The villain’s terrifying insidiousness, however, is reason enough to tune in. Like an opposition-research project gone too far, the avatar of this story’s evil achieves the apex of villainy: persuasiveness. Readers are forced to contend with a spiritual power-play feasible not only within this work of fiction, but the real world too. Meanwhile, Ryan faces an even more daunting challenge: what options remain when he’s in checkmate?

Part paranormal thriller, part gothic horror, part Left Behind reboot, The Reluctant Disciple tours popular thematic attractions via disquieting paths.

Best for: Older teen and adult readers seeking a more chillingly plausible end-times vision.

Discern: Compelling depictions of false theology, scenes of paranormal horror, references to demonic possession, brief vivid gore, brief sensuality.

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