North Devon, England. 1995. A born-again revival meeting in a public building. The usual mix of the faithful, the curious, and the desperate. And one other – an atheist suicide bomber. He's angry. He wants answers. And if God doesn't come and talk to him personally, he's going to kill everyone in the building...
In light of recent events, some would say releasing a story about a suicide bomber so soon would be a bad move; but grim reality should never get in the way of good art, even when parallels are made.
GodBomb! is much more than a horror, as it rests on the side of thriller in a Hitchtockian sense. As the stakes get higher, and the body count, the pressure within the church becomes unbearable to the point where you’re willing for the finger to slip and the bomb to go off just to halt the tension. Power drags out each shocking death with detailed aplomb, without boring the reader or padding with needless description. He even pulls off perhaps one of the most beautiful death scenes I’ve come across, as a character falls in love and dies in the arms of their affection, this scene really stuck out for me, as it stands out that even in the bleakest moments, humans can still hope until the bitter end.
Questions are asked which will no doubt stir up controversy from believers and non-believers alike. Is God real? Does it matter what we believe? We’re all going to die on this planet anyway, so why fight about it?
It boils down to this; I am right, you are wrong, let’s argue until Jesus turns up (or not).
It’s argument that will never end, as there’s no way to prove it on either side. The dilemma in GodBomb! is that if God doesn’t turn up within a set time, the bomber will trigger the bomb and doom them all, the point being, if God does turn up (theoretically) will the bomber actually believe its him (or her, or it, or them). Lack of proof doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist, but then again, weeping statues and the face of Jesus in your soup doesn’t mean he exists either. Power knows this, and the poor flock trapped in the church realise this. Pretenders rise, attempting to calm the bomber with words from God himself. Heroes rise, as do villains, adding to the potboiling, clusterfuck cacophony of potential destruction as EVERYONE prays for a miracle in a situation which has little chance for a positive outcome. You’ll want to believe.
The main villain is a delight, as he switches between broken and troubled with tears in his eyes, then completely overboard to 100% psychopath. He both wants to be proven right and wrong at the same time. The stage is set for his pantomime, and he revels in torturing his victims with his words and pain, coming across as mix of Richard Dawkins and Hans Gruber.
Twists, turns, shocks, death, saints, angels, devils and bastards. Whether you’re a believer or not, I thoroughly recommend GodBomb!, which follows a discourse of not whether or not God exists, but the belief of God truly exists, and if he does, why doesn’t he come when people call? Fans of Brian Keene’s Terminal and Bracken MacLoed’s Mountain Home will recognise similar themes of vengeance and religion in a hostage situation. Both are uncomfortable reading, but important nevertheless, as it seems situations such as the one in GodBomb! are becoming more commonplace, perhaps it would pay oneself to be ahead of the curve.
I took an opportunity to listen to the audio version of GodBomb!, and I’m glad I did. I finished it in a day and it’s always brilliant when a narrator can take you with them and deposit you right there in the story, whispering to you from behind the safety of the fourth wall. It’s a gift that should be treasured. Chris Barnes’ Scottish brogue flits between Neil Oliver calm and a Frankie Boyle at his most sardonic, bringing a definite and clear voice to each and every character, whether victim or antagonist.