Jimmy Root Jr.,
The Lightning Chronicles I:
Distant Thunder

(independent, 2009)

Distant Thunder tells the story of two men on opposite ends of the globe. There is Ty Dempsey, the pastor of a small church outside Kansas City, Mo.; and Moshe Eldan, an F-16 "Lightning Driver"/fighter pilot in Haifa, Israel. If the characters sound drastically different, they should, as their stories are about as different as you can get. Moshe's story reads like an Israeli pilot version of Jack Bauer, while Ty's story is significantly more grounded and relatable.

Ty's story being more approachable is slightly paradoxical, as his journey involves interpreting biblical prophecy due to divine intervention, and the political power struggle in his church that results from his preaching. Root does a nice job of fleshing out the various characters and situations (no doubt paraphrasing from his own experiences in ministry near -- where else? -- Kansas City, Mo.). Ty's mother, girlfriend and the members of his congregation each have a believable voice, which lends strength and wonder to this story as their world shifts from mundane to something more in tune with the divine.

Moshe's story seems like thriller fiction, and not necessarily in a good way. Root has definitely done his research, which is made evident by his Tom Clancy-esque descriptions of the F-16 jets and their processes, but the characters seem more like caricatures or impressions of action stars and their supporting casts. While Moshe goes through much more intense situations, there's a disconnect from his story, with no real emotional investment in the characters' survival. In other words, Root doesn't make the Israeli characters nearly as convincing as the Missouri/American characters.

I feel this book needs a disclaimer for anyone seeking to read it. It's unapologetically pro-Israel and pro-Christian. Now, that shouldn't negate any enjoyment factor or lead to a left vs. right kind of consideration, but anyone that would appreciate a more neutral stance in their fiction (especially when it comes to Muslims as anti-Western terrorist jihadists) should probably find another fiction/thriller with less of a particular bent.

Regardless of its religious/political slant, the biggest problem with this book is that it's obviously the first book in a continuing series. Sure, the cover plainly tells us that it is the first book of The Lightning Chronicles, but there's a LOT of build-up to two significant events, and very little payoff/resolution to one of the events. The second event is a straight-up cliffhanger, so be forewarned that you're going to get only a semblance of a complete story.

review by
C. Nathan Coyle

29 May 2010

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