Sunday, May 29, 2011

Maranatha - C. Wood

Summary:  The Holy Spear of Destiny has been removed from its display in the Vienna Hofburg Museum, and strangely vandalised.

When she is called upon by the Hofburg authorities to test the authenticity of the spear, metallurgist Vanessa Descartes quickly realises she is involved in a horrific murder case.  The severed head of a museum security guard has been left upon a silver plate, and grotesque and baffling mutilations carried out upon the body.

She is joined in the investigation by eccentric Oxford scholar Dr. Emmanuel Khalamanga, who is convinced of a connection to ancient Holy Grail legends and Professor Tomas de Carranza, a best-selling author of radical Biblical histories.

This diverse trio find themselves in a race against time with the Vienna police department to solve the growing mystery.  But as they interpret the symbols left at the scene, and discover more pieces of the puzzle, a greater and even more terrifying reality reveals itself; the existence of an invisible 'holy war' that has been fought since the Middle Ages, and is about to end in blood and death on the streets of Vienna.

And should the wrong side claim victory with the power of the holy relics, an unthinkable holocaust will be unleashed, driven by dark mysticism and insane genetic science...  (Summary from book - Image from amazon.com - Book given free for review )

My Review:  Maranatha begins with a murder, a rape, another murder, and then a gruesome ritualistic slaying. I knew that there was some violence in this book, but I wasn’t prepared to be smacked with high velocity spatter within the first few pages. After the initial slaughter, things die down a bit (ha!) while the main characters try to piece together a frighteningly complex puzzle and prevent further casualties. This was the part of the book that I felt most lost. To be honest, much of the deeper theorizing went soaring over my head. Way over. As in, spaceships had a better view.  This continued on for a while, but once the characters understood what they were facing, I became more interested in the story and was delighted by some of the twists and turns in the plot.

It is impossible to read Maranatha without comparing it to The Da Vinci Code – a comparison that is sure to delight (or infuriate) the author of this book. Both begin with brutal ritualistic killings laden with symbolism that send the main characters on a frantic quest for answers. They both have deeply religious themes and equal amounts of what might be considered blasphemous and radical historical and religious theories. While Maranatha had a similar feel to The Da Vinci Code, the latter was easier to understand and did a better job relating to the average reader. I think this book would fare better with someone who had a basic knowledge or passing interest in religious mythology, radical Christain beliefs, gnostic mysticism, alchemy, and esoteric Christianity.

Maranatha has some delicious surprises and raises some interesting ideas about the duality of faith (with its destructive and sustaining powers), but ultimately it just wasn’t my bag. I didn’t like the illustrations, had a hard time understanding many of the references, and I never felt pulled to read it when I was doing other things.

For those who want a teensy spoiler: While the book never flat-out explains how the title, Maranatha, relates to the story, a quick Wikipedia search hints at certain aspects of the plot.

My Rating: 2.75 Stars

For the sensitive reader: As with The Da Vinci Code, there is the possibility that some might find this book extremely offensive. I consider myself a conservative Christian, but I also recognize fiction when I see it and usually let a lot of things slide. There is violence (murder/rape), the occasional profanity, a great deal of radical religious theorizing, and a particularly disturbing drug-induced fantasy involving Christ.

Sum it up: A mystery/thriller for someone with a basic knowledge of (or desire to learn about) gnostic mysticism, esoteric Christianity, alchemy, and other radical theories.

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