Bill Myers,
Soul Tracker
(Zondervan, 2004)

I imagine that many people look upon Christian fiction as some type of monolithic genre offering very little in terms of variety or thrills. To see just how wrong such thinking is, one need look no further than the prolific author Bill Myers and his extraordinary novel Soul Tracker.

What you have here is a science fiction thriller that explores the deepest of human emotions while never straying far from the central message of God's love. I must say I have not read a great deal of Christian fiction -- I haven't even gotten around to the Left Behind series yet -- but Bill Myers has certainly awakened my interest in a genre that by all rights should be very important to me.

Soul Tracker is an emotional exploration of a father's grief over the loss of his teenage daughter, a death made all the more troubling because it was a suicide. David Kauffman feels largely responsible for Emily's death and tears himself apart wondering what he could have and should have done differently for his little girl. Most of all, though, he desperately needs to know whether she is OK now, wherever she may be.

He is not a religious man, so he approaches an expert on dying, Dr. Gita Patekar, hoping she can point him to someone who can communicate with the spirit of his daughter. Patekar herself is a complex and fascinating character. This Nepalese-born thanatologist had to grow up on the streets, forced to do horrible things to take care of herself and her little brother; she is now a Christian, but her faith is more analytical than emotional. She in fact finds herself unable to love or be loved, an emotional victim of a past she wishes she could forget.

Dr. Patekar tells David that communication with the dead is impossible. Based on her analysis of the dead girl's journal, however, she finds reason to believe that Emily found Christ before she died. This possibility might have eased David's mind somewhat -- if he had not started receiving communications from "Emily," including a radio dedication and an electronic phone message. Then a friend of Emily's tells him that the girl's death was strange and may not have been a suicide at all. By this point, nothing is going to stop David from trying to contact his little girl. His quest takes him to Life After Life and Dr. Patekar's employer. The company has found a way of recording the first moments of death among a large sample of the dying and has created a virtual reality machine that allows individuals to relive an amalgamation of those dying experiences. Life After Life is not the humanitarian corporation it seems, however, and David and Gita soon find themselves in deep and potentially fatal trouble, their only allies a street preacher and his ragtag group of skid-row youths.

Myers engineers a thrilling and poignant ending to the novel, taking readers to the very brink of heaven itself. God's great love is made manifest in the pages of this novel, and that makes it a book sure to touch the heart of anyone, especially Christians. The science fiction aspect of the plot makes for a thrilling read in itself, drawing in non-religious readers and introducing them, in a far from heavy-handed manner, to the central tenets of the Christian faith. If you're worried that Christian fiction might be too preachy for your tastes or just plain boring, this exciting novel should dispel many of your doubts.

by Daniel Jolley
12 November 2005

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