Book 4 in “The Homelanders” series, The Final Hour, follows Charlie West on his final desperate attempt to save one American city from the terrorist group he had sworn to take down. Although only a teenager—one whose reputation had been destroyed and whose memory had been erased—Charlie finds himself in the beginning of Final holed up in Abingdon prison for crimes he only sort of committed, with inmates who murder and guards who do no better. Charlie may not survive prison life, but he must: his memory is returning in flashes, and at one point he realizes that he alone knows not only the time but also the location of the largest attack ever devised by Prince and his terrorist group, the Homelanders. Can Charlie get the message to Rose, his protector? Can he do it in time? And will his family and friends ever know that all he has done, all he has sacrificed, he did for them? for his country?
This youth fiction (touted by some as TV’s 24 in book form and for kids) is a fast-paced action novel that puts the lead teenager in some very adult situations, and its entertainment factor certainly rates high among teens and youth-at-hearts. Published by Thomas Nelson, some might consider this book “Christian,” though the protagonist himself is not. The messages of the book, generally speaking, are not very Christian either. Charlie’s sensei and mentor, Mike, is purported to be a believer, though throughout the book he is very silent about his faith and, when the opportunity for witness or evangelization presents itself, he seems to cower in the vagueness of “faith” and “hope.” With his nearly-dying breath, he tells his student that the most important thing he could do to honor his death is to stop the terrorist—not give his life to Christ or join in the faith that he loved. Thus I found the protagonist’s Christian “hero” to be ultimately weak and unappealing. Do not get me wrong: I believe that both faith and hope are the greatest benefits of my salvation in Christ Jesus, as probably Mike did as well. But when these two things stand apart from Jesus (i.e. there is no mention in Whom the faith and hope are), they are ambiguous and ultimately useless to the non-believing reader.
I do not believe that every Christian novel needs to be an evangelistic tool. But when the main character, the one with whom our teenage readers are meant to relate, is a non-believer, I think it ought to be the purpose of the author to bring that character at least towards considering the atoning work of Christ for his sins, not simply covering the main points of the plot without any mention of Jesus’ name. I love clean fiction and would recommend this series to the youth in my life, but I would certainly hope that they would also see the weakness in the secondary hero of the book, Sensei Mike.
[I received this book free for review from Thomas Nelson Publishers]