Book Review : Kit Power - GodBomb! (2015)
Authors like Kit Power couldn't have possibly existed a decade ago. Before the advent of independent publishing, you were a slave to the judgement of sometimes jaded gatekeepers who harvested the slush pile like miners seek gold. Power is one of these guys that said "fuck it" and released the very first thing he's ever written on the Kindle Store, for better or worse. Humility and work ethic often draw the line between budding successes and demented basement dwellers on the indie market and it was a pleasant surprised when GodBomb!, Kit Power's first bona fide, traditionally published novel hit my mailbox a couple months ago. Indie publishing isn't a new dark age and authors like Kit Power are the living proof that it's possible to figure it out in front of an audience. GodBomb! has a couple of narrative hurdles it didn't quite overcome, but it's quite a thrill to witness Kit Power figure out something that is entirely his own.
We're in 1995. A group of lost souls and battered sheep are attending a religious revival meeting in a public building in North Devon, England. A young man walks in and asks the preacher a simple question: can I talk to God? The answer should be straightforward, except for one problematic quirk. The young man wants to be answered. He wants to dialogue with God and get answers to his existential anxieties. Did I mention he has a bomb? Oh yes, the kid is strapped with enough explosives to blow all the faithfuls all the way up to the Pearly Gates. The revival meeting attendees then each discover inside their heart a beautiful, yet conflicted truth: they want to survive. They are not ready yet to face the final judgement and they will need all the help they can get from the man upstairs if they want to keep enjoying the pleasures of the flesh for a little while longer.
While it was published by a press called the Sinister Horror Company, GodBomb! hardly qualifies as a horror novel. It's more of an existential thriller with horror elements weaved into it. Conceptually speaking, GodBomb! is a fascinating novel that explores the conflicting nature of Christian faith and contemporary individualism. The bomber wants God to answer to him, denying His divine nature. It is the very antithesis of faith to demand answers to your individual issues to the main upstairs. Anthropologically speaking, religion is meant to bring people together, show abnegation and work for the greater good and while born-again faith is about accepting God as your personal savior, it's supposed to make you a better person, give you a path to follow. Not providing you with answers to the mysteries of life and suffering on Earth. So, the dilemma of GodBomb! was eloquently put: there is God and the self. Who will you choose to worship?
The philosophical and theological themes of GodBomb! are challenging and pertinent (by the way, I don't know why this is set in 1995, it would've worked in 2015), but they take precedence over the narrative and undermine the dramatic structure of the novel. See, the bomber has literally "one bullet in his rifle." If he presses the button and blows the faithfuls into pieces, the novel is over. This is a problem that reflects in the dramatic structure. The point of view switches with every chapter, which displays the faithful's way of coping with its impending doom. The problem with that is that every revival meeting attendee has his own way of stalling the bomber, most often with what seems to be divine assistance, and it becomes gimmicky and predictable after a while. Each chapter you begin, you know that something different will happen that will stall the bomber. It becomes stale after a while. The bomber would've been better off as a bloodthirsty executioner killing a character every chapter. Savage, I know. But it would've neutralized this issue and would've give the novel and extra layer of intensity.
The Kit Power who wrote GodBomb! is a notch or two above the Kit Power who wrote the clumsy, but energetic Lifeline barely a year before. It's tighter, smarter and has something interesting and unique to say. I thought there were storytelling issues with the novel, but that what it did right (portraying the conflicting nature of religious faith and contemporary individualism) made up for what it did wrong. Expect more voice like Kit Power's to emerge from the independent publishing market in the next couple years as the traditional structure of publishing keeps collapsing and demonizing Amazon's innovations instead of adapting to a changing market. Kit Power is a symptom of a changing industry that now allows audiences to decide what deserves to be read. GodBomb! has its issues, but it's a proof that it's possible to successfully find your voice as a writer in this new ecosystem. If you read to challenge yourself and your own ideas, you'll get a kick out of this book. I sure did.