IMMANUEL: Battles of Armor and Soul. By Garen Pay
IMMANUEL: Battles of Armor and Soul. By Garen Pay. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017. 302 pages. $10.00.
Rev. Garen Pay of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has penned a very different kind of novel titled Immanuel: Battles of Armor and Soul.
The book primarily follows a team of rebels who infiltrate the dystopic New Rome in order to rescue humans that the Trancendency (New Rome’s tyrannical governing body) has deemed “subhuman” and deserving of death—or worse.
The book is not lacking for action. Knights with swords and ionic armor wage war against each other and against those who carry more traditional weapons and armor: such as guns, grenades, kevlar and riot shields. The book is violent without being gratuitous, but it could be violent enough to make the reader uncomfortable. The violence and bloodshed isn’t just for shock-value or to sate a reader’s bloodlust; rather, it helps to inform the story and set the tone for moral and theological battles that rage internally among the characters and betwixt friend and foe alike.
Other than ‘Christian,’ this book defies categorization. Amazon says it’s ‘science-fiction,’ but it’s not science fiction, nor is it a true dystopia, nor is it fantasy, nor is it mystery, thriller, adventure, or suspense. It’s fiction with a true and faithful proclamation of Jesus Christ and elements of dystopia, fantasy, thriller, and suspense.
The book’s primary concern is a faithful proclamation of Jesus Christ. Setting aside the moral conundrums of war and violence that have always dogged and perplexed Christian thinkers, the book does a good job of proclaiming Jesus. Jesus Christ is portrayed as one who died to atone for our sins and who was raised victorious over death with the promise to also raise our mortal bodies on the Last Day. The true Christian hope of salvation found outside of ourselves (i.e., in Jesus Christ and the promised resurrection) is the same hope found throughout this book. This is refreshing. It’s difficult to find that kind of clarity in Christian fiction, which is undoubtedly why Rev. Pay took up the pen. His book fills a need.
Immanuel: Battles of Armor and Soul is infused with a heavy apologetic tone. The dialogue of disputing characters follows the common trajectory of any faithful Christian who has tried to defend their faith in the face of opposition and skepticism. Sprinkled throughout the narrative are conversations where Christians are constantly forced to give a defense for the hope that is within them. Some of the conversations are placed in action-packed sequences of the book where any conversation would feel unnatural, especially ones that carry such theological freight. Consequently, this makes the book feel agenda driven, because it is.
In addition to the solid proclamation of Christ, the book is also a stinging cultural critique of modern views on feminism, life, and all things “progressive.” If you agree with Rev. Pay’s worldview, you’ll nod in agreement. If you don’t agree with Rev. Pay’s worldview, you’ll either roll your eyes or quit reading the book all-together.
Only the violence in the book prevents me from recommending it without reservations. I think this book is suitable for any teenager (especially boys), but that should be a parental call. I recommend parents read the first chapter for free on the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon.com. The first chapter is an accurate sample of what is found in the rest of the book and allows any parent to make an informed decision about its appropriateness for their children.
Garen Pay has written a fine book. He’s created a complex yet coherent futuristic world. The story lines are compelling, the characters have character, and there were times I genuinely could not put the book down. Aside from some lingering confusion I have about the demons (there are demons in this book) it was well thought out and executed. The book is a quick, engaging, and enjoyable read.
Rev. Timothy A. Koch, Pastor of Concordia/Immanuel in Cresbard/Wecota.