Fiction Friday is a series where I talk about what I’ve been reading. Short Stories (and sometimes Novellas) are featured as in-between posts and the first Friday of the month will feature a new novel review. Today, I review Talon of God by Wesley Snipes and Ray Norman.
Fiction Friday: Talon of God Review
Today’s novel review is Talon of God by Wesley Snipes (Yes, THAT Wesley Snipes) and Ray Norman. You can buy it here. Seeing the author in question, I was admittedly curious. Having read it I had some…thoughts about this. This story is urban fantasy, but with a heavy Christian focus. I’m going on record saying that I’m not one who believes in any sort of god or deity or anything like that. I grew up Christian, but I never followed it fully. I have some religious beliefs (I am a firm believer in reincarnation. You’re welcome to ask me why) and while I’m not against a battle between heaven and hell, I do have my thoughts.
So, let’s begin.
Talon of God
This story focuses on Lauryn, a doctor who goes about her ordinary life when an encounter with a fellow homeless veteran who succumbs to a powerful drug attacks her. He is far powerful than before and nearly kills her when a mysterious agent from God comes to her rescue. However, Lauryn’s prayers mysteriously cure him. The swordsman, named Talon, explains that she may be the only one capable of solving this mysterious drug that’s infecting the people of Chicago. Yet a conspiracy between a rich businessman, a police chief and an agent of Hell named Lincoln Black, brings Chicago to its knees when an outbreak forces Lauryn to decide if her prayers are strong enough to save the city, and no doubt the world.
To start, it’s not a bad story. While there were interesting moments, I came into this expecting this to be some sort of variant of Blade, one of Wesley Snipes best-known films based on a series of Marvel Comics (Perhaps the character could return, possibly as a Netflix series). Instead, I get a rather preachy story whose message is “prayer solves everything, apparently.” Again, I’m not one to believe in heaven or hell, God or Satan, but I’ve also mentioned that I like the concept of soldiers of heaven and hell clashing. I almost expected this as well.
To start, the plot felt predictable in numerous places. A big example is one of the villains, Victory Korigan, is the police chief, and an insanely corrupt one at that. He’s doing everything possible to cover up this incident (which I find hard to believe, but I’ll get to that in a moment), but in addition, we find out early on that this mysterious drug is known as Z3X, and is able to enhance a person’s strength and amplify the drug they take. Think salt and pepper on steroids (yeah, I know, punny, haha).
Yet we see significant things early on that would have made more sense if they held it off when it reappears again. Granted, it’s obvious he’s up to no good, but it became clear as day he’s the bad guy from the start. Sure, corrupt police chiefs aren’t anything new, but it would have made more sense to have him take this seriously to fool his lackeys into thinking he gives a damn about this outbreak. Imagine a police chief trying to cover up an alien invasion that was his fault. Or a plague that could wipe out the world. You know something’s up, but the following scene, it spells it out for you.
While we’re on the subject, the only characters that stood out were Talon and Lincoln. Everyone else felt like they were along for the ride. Lauryn did seem interesting going into this, but by the end, I began to wonder her purpose. I’ll also get to that in a moment, but Talon and Lincoln were two badasses fighting a holy war. I love black characters who are pure badasses. Aside from Blade, I’m talking about Dutch from Black Lagoon, Doomfist from Overwatch, and I suppose T’Challa counts as well. You know the kind. Calm, cool, collected, and doesn’t need to do much to be the poster-child of a B-rated action movie.
Talon felt like this in the beginning, but he also felt repetitive in his lines. God will be there when you need him, is his usual mantra, and while we’ll get to that in a moment, he felt almost plain. Lincoln was more interesting since he could hold his own and I felt the story should have had him as the villain. He does play an integral role, but most of them kind of vanish towards the end.
That said, the story itself was okay. Again, it alluded to the heaven and hell-style conflict, and while we did see that, it was short lived. There was one notable issue with this story:
This is a Christian fantasy in the same ilk as Chronicles of Narnia. However, this goes a bit far and gets preachy in a heartbeat. In the beginning, it seemed unique enough, but once Talon revealed who he was, then the preaching came in. Talon is a soldier of God, and Lauryn, being a doctor, is humongously skeptical about it. I don’t think it’s an accident that Lauryn is something science-based. Religion and science have been arch enemies for the longest time. Logic vs. faith. This story seems to err on the side of faith.
The story operates under the premise that if these characters pray hard enough, God will solve all their problems. Because of that, you get literal “deus ex machina” moments. Now, this would have worked had Lauryn had some sort of special power, but as far as I knew, she was as ordinary as grass growing on a lawn. If she was a rare individual who could tap into such a power, that’d be one thing, but her faith was her primary weapon. God guided her, and I understand it’s hard to disprove the existence of God and the afterlife, but considering she possesses a sword towards the end, she could have used that more often. Maybe start out with something that’s used to purify demonic possessions.
It could have gone far with that, but instead, I felt like I was being taught by a clergyman who thinks his fantasy doesn’t have enough Christian wisdom. And I mean no disrespect to Christian faith (a few of my friends are respectable Christians), but there’s one thing to have faithful and religious elements in a made up world and another to be used to spread a message. And that message is “faith will solve all of your problems.”
Maybe, but faith isn’t everything. If you rely solely on God and never yourself, then things will only get worse. But the whole story was trying to get a non-believer to convert and believe that God exists. So she can save the world.
Maybe I’m being too hard on the subject, but I feel such things might be more interesting if don’t have to listen to that. The fact that it’s a central theme distracts me from the rest of the story and intend makes this a more simpler story than it should. Between the mysterious Talon, the swords, angels and demons, they could have gone in a totally different direction. Instead, it doesn’t give the story enough depth for it to be interesting.
Such a concept could have been incorporated much better. Say, for example, that Talon, who works for the Soldiers of El Elyon, aka SEE, is more of a knights templar organization who worships God rather than works under him. Lauryn encounters actual demons and her power is the only thing that can stop them. The police chief is willing to put an end to this but turns his back when he bargains with the devil.
I mean, this feels like a concept rather than anything interesting. The biblical preaching didn’t work for me as it should.
Rhyme or Reason
Another thing is that this story isn’t particularly clear on its purpose. Numerous times Lauryn is told that “God will guide her” through cryptic messages that both her and myself got tired of in a hurry. I’m not against cryptic deflection when it’s done right (the kind where someone says “your purpose will be revealed in due time”) but she’s expected to just “know.” I began to wonder since all of these miracles made her believe, but is that truly how it works? May just be the quasi-atheist in me, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Yes, faith is important but again, it’s not a cure-all. I understand it’s make-believe, but it’s only barely that.
There’s also the end goal. It’s revealed that those working under the devil want to bring chaos into the world, and throughout the story, it’s not clear until the very end what the real goal is. People are pumping a massive drug into the city of Chicago, but it’s not clear why they’re going through all of that effort, especially when people would get the message that something wasn’t right. Plus the cover-up part wasn’t that realistic. There’s no way anyone could have covered that up once the people who were cured start talking. Does anyone think they wouldn’t talk?
This story contains a ton of stretches where it almost seems like pure luck rather than faith.
So that’s the story. Not one of my favorites, but I’ve read much worse. It’s filled with Christian preaching with a somewhat coherent story. It’s a story, but nothing about it engages me. If you’re a little curious about Christian fantasy, maybe you’d find something here, but this wasn’t that great. Sorry, Mr. Snipes.
So that’s the story. Next novel is the sequel to Secondborn, called Traitor Born, so keep an eye out for that.
That’s all for today. Take care, believe in yourself, and remember, the inn is always open.
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