A horrific tale of a man going crazy and a once Dead Religion
Mature Content Rating: R (excessive profanity, violence, mature themes, and disturbing sexual scenes)
Who is God to you? Hocus pocus cloud-dweller? Miracle worker? Evil smiter? Creator of all things? Maybe he is some dude with a long beard (and it’s probably white, because if we can agree on anything it would be that God is old)? Does God even exist? None of these are questions that I can answer for you, just like the parents of our protagonist (Alex Valdez) in Dead Religion couldn’t tell him who God is.
David Beers tells the story of a long dead God coming back to life, a man going insane, and a hotel being blown sky-high while the police pick up the pieces. Who is responsible for this thrilling ride of destruction and death (other than David Beers, or course)? Is it Alex Valdez, some long-dead deity, or so much more?
Maybe I am crazy, but it intrigues me to live inside the head of crazy people. (If I was inside their head, I guess that would make me them… thus making me crazy…) Beers does a good job of showing us what makes Alex Valdez tick (or maybe not tick. Take your pick). He lives a happy (or not so much) life with his wife who has been with him through some heart-wrenching times, and takes such vows as “til death do us part” seriously. Entering the mind of a crazy person is not necessarily beautiful (though I like to describe many things with that word), but it brings a sense of intrigue and insanity (rightfully so) to this wild ride.
Again, I must say that the imagery is magnificent. I say “again” not because I have mentioned it in this review, but it is what drew me into the book initially (as it does with many other books I have enjoyed and reviewed here). Being inside the head of a crazy person might do that to you. As the reader is exposed to the mares of day and night that David Beers portrays, they speak to more than Alex Valdez and others. The reader can almost feel what is happening, that sense of dread leaking through the pages.
Along the way, the reader not only gets to see inside Alex’s head, but almost every other character in Dead Religion gets a spotlight of their own (including the antagonist). Every character has a motivation for what the are doing. The past informs the present and thus the future. This is, however, not a case of so much POV jumping that the reader is left scratching their head for a lot of the book. There is a fair amount of back-story integrated into the book, but it is not just thrown at the reader like a storm of drops to be caught in a shot glass. Back-stories are revealed at appropriate times in the book where they will inform the reader in greater detail about what is happening in the present. They add some needed flavour like a garnish on top of a meal, or the cherry on your ice cream sundae.
Sometimes a scene will take longer to happen than it would in some other books you might have read, but this is not a detriment. Quick POV jumping within a scene will inform the reader of what is happening in every character’s head as every inch of a blade sinks slowly into some dying man’s flesh, or a storm envelopes the sky, one cloud at a time. Horrific scenes will effect the perpetrator, victim, and onlookers in different ways, but the reader will be able to feel the horror in all its tangible might from within the dark corners of every character’s mind(s).
If you are one who is bothered by profanity (especially the “F” word) this is not a book for you. There is a lot of swearing in Dead Religion, to the point where I thought it was unnecessary. I realise that there are some people out there that speak between a slew of profanity, using it like the “um” in their sentences, but does every character have to swear so much? If it added to their character in some way, that would make sense, but almost every character in Dead Religion seems to need profanity like their morning coffee. Even the characters who apparently “don’t swear” or at least “not a lot” use strong profanity (or think it) more than you would find in a lot of books.
I will admit, I was drawn in by the characters at the beginning, but it was a little hard to follow. For the most part, it works, but there is the odd time where something was happening, and I was not sure whether this was past, present, or future. The most prominent time this happens is when the back-story of Alex Valdez is being told. In the middle of a conversation there is a cut to the past (and a lengthy one) just to return to the dialogue as if nothing had happened. A little bit of re-organization in the first quarter of the book would have enhanced the appeal immensely. The beginning doesn’t flow like a story, but rather a bunch of events that the reader must piece together to makes sense of what is going on.
If the beginning and the end are what defines a good book, Dead Religion missed the mark. More focus at the beginning would have been nice, and some pre-plot build up/character development would have made the horror to ensue in said character’s lives more relateable. Though the character and plot are good, I never felt like I was the character, instead having that out-of-book experience where I was looking down on the action like a bystander. The ending is also not as strong as I would have liked. Don’t get me wrong, the book has a definite ending and not much more could have been said to wrap it up, but I was left scratching my head a bit when turning the final page. A few things about the “dead religion” that the book is named after were poorly explained so that I wasn’t totally sure why certain things were (or weren’t) happening. However, nothing major is left hanging, and the book still has a satisfactory conclusion.
Dead Religion is a book that will draw you in with the psychological insanity of a supposed killer, describing his nightmares in such detail that you will almost feel his pain. After a rocky start, this book will guide you through the mind and lives of many individuals who are all working toward the same thing: sanity. If you don’t mind profanity and some disturbing scenes, and like to see how someone’s past can effect their future (and they psyche), this book is for you.
Where you can find it (DRM-free):