Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book Review: The Last Judges Uncut Chronicles, by Jedidiah Isaac Gong and Matthew Edward Denny

            So after last week’s fallout, I got down on my knees and asked the Lord to send me a worthy novel. And He delivered . . . a right roundhouse kick to my solar plexus, a bullet through my kneecap, and a copy of The Last Judges Uncut Chronicles, by Jedi Gong. This apocalyptic novel draws equally from the book of Revelations and the X-Men comics. It could have used a little more internal tension and drive, but the excellent characterization and powerful imagination made it a book I couldn’t put down—all wrapped up with a professional, well-edited tone that wouldn’t make anyone think this was self-published.
This is why we get artists to make us covers.

       The first chapter dives straight into the story. Our first narrator, Anima X, rolls through city streets on a skateboard pulled by dogs on her way to the music studio where she works. No sooner has the energetic punk made it inside than the skies open up and a rain of blood pours down from the sky, lighting everything on fire. We witness her horror and her fear for her family members—and then the story cuts to New York, where we meet the psychic Jadyn Rivera, among whose talents are seeing strange visions centered around Israel and divine judgment. When she sees a vision of all the fish in the East River dying and the whole city’s water supply becoming contaminated, she decides it’s time to get out of town—and hops in a cab with a sexy cabdriver who’s a lot more than he seems.    

      Cut to a deserted Virginia highway, where two kids and their family are driving out of Baltimore, heading south.  There’s a lot of protagonists in this story—the first half is primarily concerned with bringing them all together—but the author handles the multiple protagonists well, cutting from viewpoint to viewpoint at the most suspenseful points, driving us to read on. But at the same time, he fashions all his characters with a great deal of realism, personality, and sympathy, so you can’t just skim the pages to see what happens to your favorites. This is the best type of reader’s dilemma.

        Of course, the Christian apocalypse has several disadvantages in fiction—largely, because at the end, you know everyone’s going to die and the only real question is heaven or hell? There’s not a great deal of soul-searching going on here, so much as there is ass-kicking of the followers of the Antichrist, kung fu with demons, and psychic electrocution of devil worshipers. The characters all get baptized, but we don’t really see a great increase in piety as a result. Then again, if the world’s going to end in a few more years, maybe it doesn’t matter if your body count starts approaching the triple digits, because everyone’s getting judged sooner or later .

       I also think the book could have used a bit more drive. The interactions and adventures of this colorful cast of characters is entertaining and well-written, but they don’t really have a goal for most of the story. It would have been nice to see that—maybe spelling out ‘Jesus Is God’ in bullet holes riddling the body of the Antichrist. So some kind of concrete goal motivating the characters throughout the book would make it better. So would having a little more tension between them. These characters form a pretty cohesive team, but no one group is completely happy all the time. A little more rivalry could spice things up a little in the slow parts.       
      High Points: The tone. Most of the book, I couldn’t tell was self-published. The emotion. The first time a character dies, I felt my stomach drop and was actually sad for the next few pages. The characterization. Believable and interesting. The illustrations. This book is illustrated, and it’s very pretty. The accents. Use of vernacular in books can sometimes feel stereotypical and crass, but the author handles it very well, making it into a realistic detail.
      Low Points: A long theological conversation. It’s a textbook argument against relativism and agnosticism, but it feels copy-pasted from a textbook, and it could have been broken up a little better. Chapter numbering. Just number them consecutively instead of splitting them by part. Fact checking. Nockamixon is not a large lake—just a detail which got to me after many summer vacations to those shores. The title. I’m sorry, but when I think of the Bible, the word ‘uncut’ takes on a whole new meaning. 

      Did I like this book? Yes. Would I read it again? Yes. Would I recommend it to people who like Christian apocalyptic stories? Maybe—if they wouldn’t mind the violence. My rating? As a Christian apocalyptic novel, I’ll give it four and a half stars out of five. As a novel? Four.

--Liz Ellor, O43

You can download this week's book by clicking here


  1. I remember Tarantino saying about Pulp Fiction, "I hope that if a million people see this movie, they see a million different movies." To hear a brilliant and beautiful mind like yours, Liz, critique my book is just as fulfilling as the experience of writing it was.
    Thank you,
    Jedi Gong

  2. Thanks, Liz, your review struck the important cords. Long theological conversation are drabs, especially when the arguments are based solely on faith.