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|The Evangeline Manuscript|
by Walker Chandler
Published by Pike Publishing, 1998
Reviewed by: Greg Slade
When I first asked for a review copy of this book, I was under the impression that it was a Christian work. The "about the author" material inside the back cover gave me pause, with the apparently contradictory information that, while the author is active in Scouting and the Presbyterian Church, he is also an "outspoken opponent of the so-called War on Drugs." Sure enough, where much Christian fiction is really evangelistic tracts in the guise of fiction, The Evangeline Manuscript is pro-drug propaganda in the guise of fiction.
The premise is that a British scientist working on a device to make an aircraft invisible to radar creates a time machine. He travels back to 27 A.D., taking with him his nephew, his nephew's girlfriend, and his nephew's son. Of the foursome, only the girlfriend returns to the present, bringing Jesus of Nazareth with her.
The characters are not that believable, but better drawn than is, sadly, all too often the case. The biggest weakness in that area is that Evangeline, the point of view character, simply doesn't come across as an actual woman, but rather as a man's notion of a woman. In several places, she says things which no woman would ever say, still less put down in writing addressed to a man. (Although men have long suspected that those things are true of women.) The major male characters tend to break down into either "bad guys" or else sexual partners for Evangeline. (Sometimes both.) I hope that Chandler's research into the ways of the Roman world of the first century was more thorough than his research into first century Palestine, as there are a couple of fairly major historical errors in the latter part of the book. (This is besides the revisionist version of Christ and the apostles and their behaviour.)
Evangeline doesn't actually get to Palestine until about 2/3 of the way through the book, and the meeting with Jesus strikes me as pretty anti-climactic. In fact, Jesus strikes me as pretty anti-climactic. Chandler's Jesus is hellenised, drug-using, rather ineffectual, and frequently confused. In fact, though Evangeline describes him as "charismatic", it's difficult to see what she sees in him beyond sexual attractiveness. (Yes, Chandler goes that far.) In fact, far more miraculous power is attributed to assorted pagan gods and "the Sight" than to Jesus, and his resurrection is more a matter of regaining consciousness, and he is in serious danger of succumbing to infection until Evangeline rushes him off to modern medical attention. At one point, Evangeline invokes the names of the Greek gods to protect Jesus from Roman soldiers, and he doesn't so much as blink. (p. 516) There is no need for repentance or sanctification here, only a matter of free love and "if it feels good, do it." Genesis 1:26 tells us that God said, "Let us make man in our image", and ever since then, people have tried to remake God in their own image. This, it seems to me, is God in the image of the Woodstock generation. In the end, I'm afraid that the only words in the entire book with which I can wholeheartedly concur are the last two: "God is." (p. 534)
Chandler took part in an online interview on the list in May, 2000.
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