Friday, June 30, 2006

Relentless (Novel)

Author: Robin Parrish
Bethany House, July 2006

Grant Borrows' life has just taken a drastic left turn. There's another man in the world wearing his face and living his life. What's more, the man he sees in the mirror is a stranger. Somehow, he's been Shifted—his whole life fundamentally altered, in the space of a single breath. But the changes don't stop at skin-level. Inexplicably, he's able to affect objects around him by simply thinking about them. And as he soon learns, he's become the central figure in a vast web of intrigue that stretches from an underground global conspiracy to a prophecy dating back over seven thousand years, that tells of his coming. Enemies and allies find him at every turn, but one thing they all learn very quickly is that you don't want to push Grant Borrows too far... Can destiny be undone?

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us that there’s nothing new under the sun, and with literature that is very often the case. Every story is a new take on an old theme, a theme first explored thousands of years ago and simply repackaged over the millennia.

Robin Parrish’s debut novel Relentless, however, has found a brilliant and tantalizing package for the often-overused theme of self-discovery.

In a somewhat sci-fi (sans pointy ears and unconvincing alien forms) setting, Parrish explores what he has termed the Shift—a sudden transformation in a person from one body to another. Our protagonist, Grant Borrows (known pre-Shift as Collin Boyd) is a lonely man, riding a lonely bus to a lonely job for a lonely eight hours of work before returning to his lonely apartment for a lonely evening before going to bed—alone. Suddenly he looks up and sees himself—really, himself—on his way to work. Same briefcase, same watch, same slightly overweight lumbering gait, same disobedient lock of hair continually dropping into his face. He gives chase, briefly, until a strange barefoot woman stops him, interrupts his identity crisis, and basically tells him to act now and ask questions later. His life is in danger, and many people are depending on him. No time to waste.

Meanwhile, he’s caught his reflection in a window—now a svelte, broad-shouldered, well-postured, GQ-type man, he’s more than a little uncomfortable with his new form. Women are looking. But inside he’s still the lonely, overweight, dead-end job “loser” he’s convinced himself to be. Inside the fine leather wallet he finds in his finely-tailored coat pocket, there is a load of money (another novelty), a driver’s license with his new name, and the key to a bachelor-pad-furnished penthouse apartment is a flashy neighborhood.

This was going to take some getting used to.

So begins the journey of a new man—a man given a new life of responsibility and adventure—the life he once dreamed of, and now he’s not sure he likes it. Intense, sometimes eerie, and always engaging, Borrows’ plight to understand his role in saving a special group of people (of which he has become one) explores the ups and downs of becoming a savior. Parrish draws us in with finely-tuned dialogue, surprising but not completely implausible plot twists, numerous interesting and well-developed characters, and yes, a relentless pace.

While I wouldn’t have chosen this book off the library shelf, the combination of an incredibly original narrative of a man striving to reach his potential and brilliant storytelling captivated even my stuffy literary attention. The title page indicates this is the first of a trilogy; if so, I am eagerly awaiting the sequels.

This is one fine debut novel. While Christian themes (particularly regeneration and redemption) are present and very worthy of discussion, there is absolutely no heavy-handed, overtly Christian reference, making it a great read for all audiences, and a superb conversation-starter for those interested in following spiritual themes.

Rather than being a great “Christian novel,” Relentless is a great novel by a very talented Christian writer.


C.J. Darlington said...

I agree, Jenn. This was an amazing book. Really enjoyed it.

11:35 AM  

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