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The THOR Conspiracy

The THOR Conspiracy
by Larry Burkett
Published by Thomas Nelson, 1995
Amazon.com: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.ca: hardcover, paperback
Amazon.co.uk: hardcover, paperback
ChristianBook.com: paperback
Reviewed by: Greg Slade
[The THOR Conspiracy]

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They say that you can't judge a book by its cover, and that has never been more true than in this case. The cover features images of "fat man" (the plutonium bomb which was dropped over Nagasaki in the closing days of World War II) and a mushroom cloud, along with what looks like blueprints, and the slogan "The Seventy-Hour Countdown to Disaster", so the reader might expect some kind of thriller plot involving some malevolent group getting its hands on the blueprints to the early plutonium bombs and using them as terror weapons. Except that no plutonium bomb appears anywhere in the narrative. (Nor, for that matter, does a "The Seventy-Hour Countdown.") One of the characters who is mentioned repeatedly is an enigmatic Baptist preacher named "John Elder", which might lead some readers to expect this to be an "end times" story, where "John Elder" turns out to be St. John the Apostle, who, at least according to some traditions, is still alive, and will be one of the two witnesses mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Except that "John Elder", after being mentioned repeatedly throughout the book, appears in one brief scene and doesn't say anything particularly significant. The book is published by Thomas Nelson publishers, so the reader might expect some kind of Christian content. However, except for the "John Elder" character (who, as I said, doesn't end up saying much, and virtually nothing of any theological significance), there is no spiritual content to this book at all. (In fact, given the complete lack of any spiritual substance, the sermonising characters and obligatory conversion scene in the second-to-last chapters, which people love to make fun of in so much CBA fiction, would have been something of a relief.)

What we do get instead of any Christian content is a load of right wing politics of the type which causes non-Christians to regard Christians (or at least those associated with the Religious Right) as a bunch of lunatics. Essentially, the argument is that environmentalism, gun control, public transit, and minimum wage laws have brought the United States to its knees, just ripe for a takeover plot. Combine this with a decades-old coverup of an accident during the testing of a nuclear weapon code-named THOR during the Kennedy administration, and you have the conspiracy of the title. (And, yes, if you're paying attention, the coverup has little to do with the takeover plot, except that the ecological damage which is being covered up provides the pretext for using environmental laws to bring the U.S. down.)

For a reader whose willing suspension of disbelief is impaired by scientific, technical, or logical errors, this book is very nearly unreadable. The characters are cardboard cutouts who spend way too much time expositing to one another, and switch sides (and levels of competence) at the convenience of the author. The pacing is uneven, with a curiously slow buildup to the climax, and then the whole thing gets wrapped up in two pages. The understanding of the history and psychology of the foreign countries mentioned is virtually non-existent. (Countries which are traditional enemies, for example, band together to undermine the economic progress of another country.) Military matters are dealt with extremely illogically. (Part of the reason for the U.S. coming so close to disaster is that the military has been gutted, and the demobilised troops put into a new paramilitary arm of the EPA. However, the troops who so bravely defend the country as soldiers suddenly turn into incompetent, bullying goons when wearing a different uniform. Then, too, the story posits a background in which one country takes over another in a bloody war, that both countries have nuclear weapons before the war starts, but the losing side never uses its weapons in the war, so that said weapons can play a role in this story.) And, given that this is supposed to be a Christian book, the body count is shockingly high. Even more surprising, given Burkett's experience working at Cape Canaveral, the science is ludicrous, going beyond reasonable speculation to wishful thinking. The understanding of macroeconomics is also seriously deficient, which is even more surprising, given Burkett's well-known finanical ministry.

Up until I read this book, I had nothing but respect for Burkett, and for Thomas Nelson. Unfortunately, that positive regard is now considerably tarnished. (June, 2005)


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