John A. Senneff,
The Apastron Reports:
Quest for Life

(MedPress, 2005)

The story in The Apastron Reports is an adventure that two brothers share as they discover life on other planets. They have a closeknit relationship, and at the end of each chapter they are whisked away from danger and evil to wake up in a new environment.

There's a bit of scientific theory added to the plot in places. I haven't been able to determine if it's science beyond my grasp or if it's science that's as fictional as the plot.

As dangerous and evil as some of the characters are, there is an angel called Michael who consistently whisks them away at the point of disaster. That's one aspect that made it difficult to believe that the boys were at any time in real danger. They seem to find God's existence almost everywhere they go -- in others or in themselves.

The format is just a little too pat, the characters a little too faithful, and the plot quickly lost any edginess it had at the beginning. At times, the narration and dialogue are appropriately written for ages 10-15, at others the book seems aimed at mature adults. The varying style is a bit disconcerting and I think there are religious references that would bypass most children in the general public.

The author may have written the book with a specific purpose in mind: perhaps a useful adventure book to use in an innovative Sunday school setting or reading group. As an adventure story, it lacks that imminent sense of danger, though it does have moments of wonder and awe. Although the creatures the boys meet are described differently in each chapter, there is a similarity in voice that make them all run together and I had the sense that they were all pieces of the same entity.

The book may be trying to serve two masters -- as a teenage adventure story and as religious educational material. This book has striking elements of each, but I wish the author had made a strong choice to concentrate on one or the other instead of walking on middle ground.

The strong points of the book are its easy-to-read format, a colourful cover print, two interesting main characters and a series of illustrations one could study for almost as long as it takes to read the book. The book brings to light an interesting question: "If there were life on other planets, would they know Jesus?" Taken in the light of the 10 commandments, there's definitely a lesson plan to facilitate discovery for youth who read the book.

Serving a certain religious mindset, the book could have some appeal to the greater public, but would probably need adult participation, reading out loud or group readings, to fully be appreciated.

by Virginia MacIsaac
10 June 2006

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