Friday, August 6, 2010

Flashpoint by Frank Creed

Flashpoint by Frank Creed

(This is a repost of the review I did in October 2007)

This book ought to come with a warning like the one on amusement park rides. People with hypertension or heart problems should exercise extreme caution when reading Frank Creed's Flashpoint because it's an edge-of-your-seat, thrill-seeking, action-packed ride. Strap in, keep your limbs inside the vehicle, and hold on with white knuckles. Frank absolutely excels at action and he's chocked his under-200-page volume to the very brim with it. Excitement is an understatement. In fact, my old-fashioned, middle-aged brain could have used a little more contemplation to give me a chance to catch my figurative breath here and there.

Confession time. I was quite reluctant to read this book at all because of the name of the genre. "Cyberpunk" sounds like something that would glorify cop-killing and gang-rape. Sorry, that's the image conjured by the word "punk". Adding "cyber" to it doesn't help because I know too many people who use "cyber" as a verb. To "cyber" means "to engage in cybersex". Probably not what everyone thinks when they hear it, and surely not a desired meaning in this case. I know it's not Frank's fault for either root in the compound. He didn't name the genre. I almost let those negative connotations in that word stop me from even trying this book. I'm glad I took the chance. Ignore the word, no matter what it makes you think, and just try the book anyhow.

While it appeals to all ages, Flashpoint will be highly appealing to anyone under thirty, and especially to those of the male persuasion. The Matrix has nothing on Flashpoint which Keanu Reeves couldn't easily surpass were he to play Frank's hero, Calamity Kid. In all fairness, and just so you don't think I'm gushing through rose-colored glasses, I did feel that Flashpoint was slightly obsessed with descriptions of weapons, and being female, and not hip to weapons even in the present day, that wasn't my favorite aspect. I admit my eyes glazed over every now and then when extensive descriptions of the various high-tech, futuristic arsenals came up, which was kind of often. I suspect most guys would find this an asset rather than a drawback.

Others have covered the plot quite well, so I won't duplicate that. Frank even offers a free excerpt on his website, I do want to mention how impressed I was with the theology and the depth of characters and situations. Even with so many weapons flying it makes your head spin, the battle was STILL in God's hands and Calamity Kid, the uber-hero, knows it. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, he knows God is powerful enough to preserve him but sovereign enough that He doesn't have to do the bidding of His creation. Calamity is confident, but not in a stuck-up or superior way. This is not some canned Sunday School lesson with a Deus Ex Machina saving the day either. And furthermore, the good guys kick-butt throughout the entire volume, and yet they still manage to LOVE and even PRAY FOR some really nasty enemies. And speaking of enemies, yes, a good number of them are cooky-cutter bad guys (as is often the case with the average pawns of any dictator's army), but regardless of what it seems on the surface, the REAL battle is not against flesh and blood, and the REAL enemy is no comic-book caricature one can just swat with the newest weapon so everyone lives happpily ever after.

Now we get to the part where we discuss my opinion, no matter how utterly inconsequential it may be. Don't care, you say? Click a link or hit the back button! This is the best book I have read in years. And that is really saying something considering it's a dystopia. As a rule, I'm not fond of dystopian plotlines. I find them depressing and they usually run counter to my main motivation for reading, which is mental escape to a better world. You could not pay me any amount of money to visit Mr. Creed's version of the world in 2036. And yet, there was one very cool plot device which took the edge off all those horrors: Reformation.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that the church has used this term in the past, most notably pertaining to the movement precipitated by Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door in Wittenberg. But when members of the Body of Christ in 2036 use the term, they are talking about something else entirely. It's a process by which the brain is enhanced in some very cool ways:

1. Infodump. You get a top-notch university education in seconds! Plus, while they're at it, they give you full fluency in several foreign languages and the ENTIRE Bible. That alone would be worth the price of admission, but wait! there's more...

2. Better, stronger, faster. Reformed saints can do lots of things out of the range of normal human beings. It's not quite Superman, but in many cases, pretty darn close. No one leaped over an entire building, but four stories is nothing to sneeze at. And if a reformed saint sees bullets coming, their mindware hardens the skin's entry point at the molecular level to make it impenetrable. And they CAN see bullets coming because all their senses are ultra-heightened. Their minds can slow down split-second events like a slo-mo camera. They can hear heartbeats down the hall and they can smell the minute changes that signal a change in sweat secretion due to fear or lying. How cool would it be to be able to detect lies by smell?

3. Spiritual enhancement. Having the entire text of the Bible at your instant disposal would be great by itself, but that's only the beginning. Reformed saints can literally see angels and demons and most of them can even sense the presence of the Almighty. Some of them can even see souls of mortals, both Christian and non.

4. Telepathy, i.e. mind-speaking. Talking to other reformed saints without opening your mouth or even looking at them. You don't even have to be in the same room. I think there was a range outside of which the brainwaves couldn't travel, but it's still absolute-zero cool.

Add to all these brainwave goodies a bunch of futuristic gadgets that Bill Gates would give his left hand for (com-vision: computers mounted on the insides of eyeglasses, boots that allow you to climb any surface, electrocuting gloves, etc, etc) and you've got a very compelling world where I didn't seem to mind spending time despite the fact that it was frighteningly realistic in numerous very bad ways.

So do I recommend this book? Absolutely. I got a free review copy, but I also paid to get an autographed copy for my collection, and I bought at least four copies as gifts. Frank's sequel, War of Attrition, is due out later this year. Guess who will be first in line to read it?

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