4 out of 4 stars
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Would you ever agree to participate in a reality television show? What if the program was promoted as being centered around faith, but there were glaring discrepancies? Apocalypse TV by author Thomas Allbaugh follows college professor Walter Terry's involvement in a reality show about religion that may have a hidden agenda.
After visiting their dying father in hospice care, Walter and his sister, Melissa, are at a nearby diner when they are approached by a talent scout who works for a reality show. Despite assurances that the siblings are naturals, Walter has strong reservations about becoming involved in the show described as "an investigation into American religious ideas." However, his university teaching job is in jeopardy and in a state of vulnerability, Walter agrees to participate in Race to the Apocalypse. He and Melissa join the other cast members in a series of bizarre challenges that don't appear to have much to do with faith at all. From the onset of filming, Walter feels targeted and misunderstood and becomes increasingly suspicious of the show's creator, David Thorndike, and his motives. As production of the show continues, Walter's reputation, marriage, and even his life are threatened by the public's perception of so-called reality.
I have occasionally experienced love-hate relationships with reality shows which is one of the reasons I rarely watch them and prefer to read instead. Though I was immediately intrigued by the premise of the plot, the book encompassed so much more than I expected. The author's evocative writing style challenges readers to consider conflicting perspectives related to social issues and faith. Equally admirable is his ability to convey spiritual principles through fiction revolving around reality television and the potential havoc it creates. The result is a book that leaves an impression that lingers long after the last page is read.
The character development is another strength of the book. Though not particularly likable, Walter is relatable. Deeply flawed and ever the academic and skeptic, he is the type of character readers can picture debating controversial issues. However, I grew impatient with Walter's incessant self-analysis which slowed the pace of the book. I felt the author sufficiently established this particular character trait of the protagonist eliminating the need for frequent reminders. Even so, this was only a minor distraction in an overall enjoyable read. Additionally, the book was professionally edited.
Therefore, without reservation, I rate this thought-provoking read 4 out of 4 stars. I recommend it to readers who enjoy books about faith and how it relates to social issues. It will also appeal to fans of reality shows. On the other hand, readers who dislike the debate of controversial topics or an introspective writing style may prefer to pass on this one.
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