3 out of 4 stars
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Mason: The Last Messenger is a religious thriller by Tom Wheeler. God sends his child, Mason, from heaven to Earth to spread His word: follow Him or suffer the consequences of your own poor choices. Saboteur (Satan) and his minions plot the downfall of the Thomas family, to whom will be born this messenger child. Meanwhile, Hassan bin Laden, son of Osama, plots the “deaths of infidels,” his actions aided and encouraged by Saboteur's demons, who revel in hate, horror, and bloodshed. While Mason Thomas struggles with his own personal demons, Hassan bin Laden works on “The Knockout Punch,” his father's planned follow-up to “The First Strike” of 9/11.
With huge scope, Mason featured a massive cast of characters. Wheeler’s comprehensive character list at the start helped me get to know them more quickly. His story was highly readable and entertaining, especially for those with an interest in heaven and hell. The action scenes were intense, their human violence mixed with simultaneous battles between the archangels and the demons responsible for pushing people to commit these terrible acts. Hassan bin Laden’s plan to hit America with “The Knockout Punch” – worse than his father’s “First Strike” of 9/11 – continually escalated the tension throughout the book. Given its action scenes and tension, the book didn’t seem overlong, even at 600 pages, and its powerful ending set up the sequel nicely.
Mason’s uplifting religious message was that those who are lost can always be found, regardless how irretrievable their situation seems. No sin is too great, no time period too long; the Almighty One will always welcome us back. Wheeler’s phonetically similar names for key celebrities were interesting, too – the current US president was Crumpler and the head of Tesla was Leon Tuss. However, I felt the author’s greatest strength was his brilliant presentation of perspectives from both the Americans and the jihadists wanting to kill them. Being able to see both points of view without taking sides is truly the mark of a great storyteller.
Mason did have its problems, but all could be fixed by a professional editor. It had many minor errors, mainly in punctuation, such as missing commas. There were regular switches between past and present tense, sometimes in the same sentence. Homophone errors such as “lightening” for “lightning” and “breaks” for “brakes” also featured; the most confusing was “irradicate movements,” which presumably meant “erratic movements.” Apostrophes were also sometimes used in plurals: “American’s” instead of “Americans.”
Wheeler consistently capitalised “Bin Laden” where it should have been “bin Laden.” His English phraseology was occasionally a little off: “Is he becoming the very person he appalled in his youth?” Here, “appalled” should be “abhorred;” otherwise, the sentence has an entirely different meaning. Also, the same character sometimes spoke twice in a row in two separate sets of quotation marks, which was confusing. Finally, I observed many times where a character “shook his head up and down.” This was frustrating to read, because (a) it’s called nodding, which is shorter and easier to understand, and (b) I generally assume someone is saying “no” or disagreeing if he “shook his head.”
Overall, Mason was a powerful, engaging, and entertaining story hamstrung by poor editing. Consequently, I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. Were half-stars possible, I would rate it two-and-a-half. Once edited, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys powerful religious thrillers about pitched battles between good and evil. It contained no profanity and sexual references only – no erotic scenes.
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