Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Illusion by Frank Peretti

Mandy and Dane Collins are well known magicians, ready to buy that farm in Idaho and retire. But Mandy is killed in an automobile crash, or is she? Flash back forty years. Teenager Mandy and her girlfriends are at the Spokane fair. Her friends go off as she decides to rest a moment. Suddenly, Mandy finds herself in the same place, but something is wrong. She has a hospital gown on and the fair has changed. Where is her father? Where is their booth? Where are her friends? What is happening? Reacting to her new and unknown circumstances, Mandy is taken in for psychiatric observation.
Mandy manages to escape the hospital. But her father's farm is gone. There is no one she knows. She manages to find her way to a friendly shelter and a gig, doing magic tricks in a restaurant for tips. She comes under the helpful eye of an attorney who manages to get her a new identity. She continues her magic – amazing tricks of levitation and controlling objects. She finally comes to the notice of the sixty year old Dane Collins. He can't believe his eyes. She looks exactly like his Mandy did, forty years ago. But his Mandy died in the car accident. What is going on?

Peretti fans have waited seven years for a new book from him. I have to say, it is not one of his best. It gets off to a slow start and has a slow middle. There is lots of action at the end, and perhaps that makes the novel worth the read.
The plot includes a combination of time and space travel, cutting edge experiments the government is very interested in. Imagine, taking a soldier back in time, just a few minutes to before he was shot, moving him to another location just before the bullet hit him.
I was a bit disappointed in that the writing was not snappy or witty. I would not call Peretti a clever wordsmith at this point in his career. It surprised me as I have read all of his novels (even his ones for teens) and this one just does not seem up to par.
And the occupation of Mandy and Dane, magicians, seems a bit odd. Their life's work is based on illusion, strange for Christians. I expected a little dialogue along the way explaining why they did what they did. Christians making a living deceiving people needs a believable reason to do so, I think. I don't remember something like that in the book.
The plot did not grab me and compel me to read on. I figured out the bad guy early on so his part in the ending did not surprise me.

In a note from the author, Peretti says this novel, on the surface, is about two illusionists who are separated by death, but not really, and their quest to find each other. The symbolism includes being lost in this weird and sinful world, the deception of the world as we reach for heaven, the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit, and our longing to be united with Jesus.
I think the reader has to work a bit to understand those themes in the book. Peretti's earlier novels have such strong Christian themes, outright spiritual warfare, I felt that aspect of his writing was toned down a great deal in this novel.

Howard Books, 499 pages.  Browse the book and watch a video at the publisher's product page.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Howard Books for the purpose of this review. The opinions expressed are my own.
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