Friday, July 7, 2017

Audiobook Review: Revelation by Carter Wilson

At a small New York college, two roommates set out to create a religious cult as a social experiment. Soon, however, things take a malevolent turn when the burgeoning Church’s chosen messiah turns out to be a socio-pathological lunatic. Waking to find himself trapped in a sort of dungeon cell like that of John of Patmos, with only a typewriter, a spider, and the rotting corpse of his former roommate for companionship, Harden Campbell sets to work writing his book of Revelation.

Set over a quarter century ago, Carter Wilson’s novel, Revelation, was only published last year, but it could easily have been set in contemporary times. The story toggles between third-person point of view and first as some of the examination of the action puts us in the position of observer, while other chapters are from the perspective of a manuscript being written by the captive, Harden.

Carter Wilson
There are three main characters, our part-time narrator, Harden; his roommate turned tormenter, Coyote; and Coyote’s girlfriend, Emma. The story takes us from Harden’s first meeting with Coyote all the way to a contrived conclusion in which the triangle of Harden, Coyote, and Emma come together to realize Coyote’s penultimate coup de grace, unless a miracle or Deus ex Machina intervenes.

My review is based on the audio version, which I received in exchange for my honest review, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I felt about the choice of narrator, Timothy McKean. It’s not that he did a bad job. On the contrary, he helped give life to the characters and added a sense of reality to the tension, and in the end that’s really all one can ask of a voice actor. But there is a slight Keanu Reeves-like immaturity to the quality of his tone. Another coming-of-age/college-experience story that wasn’t also about a murderous messianic sadist would probably be right in his wheelhouse.

Timothy McKean
As for the story, I have to confess, I have a particular fondness for thrillers which twist the conventions of religion into something distorted and horrifying. The best parts of this story for me were, in fact, the aspects showing how a charismatic sociopath could easily convince enough vulnerable and weak-willed neophytes to follow his promises of lasting happiness and self-improvement. From my perspective, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, and Paul of Tarsus are all just variations of a theme representing a template from which Wylie “Coyote” Martin was drawn.

Revelation is a successful thriller the same way that the first season of The Following was a success. We believe that a sociopath with access to vulnerable minds and a fortune in expendable cash could create the illusion that he has a message about the purpose of life. But why wouldn’t we believe that? After all, Joel Osteen and Tony Robbins are real people, and we’ve seen what they have done with the starter recipe. All we have to then do is toss in a little Charles Manson and some Kellyanne Conway. Voila!

Available on Amazon and Audible

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