The Christian Bible is true, the prophets were right, and Armageddon is now: Brian Caldwell explores the nature of hatred and forgiveness, divinity and damnation through the story of one person's confrontation with the end of the world, God, and, most harrowingly, himself.
When you no longer need question the nature of the universe, does it follow you no longer need question the nature of your soul?
We think Jimmy Lordan is doing one thing, following the conventional role of protagonist in trying to save an old girlfriend. But, little by little, we understand that Mr. Caldwell is subverting the role of 'hero' to say something very different about humanity. The plot is non-linear, recognizing that action versus reaction, be it in actual event or psychological state of mind, does not necessarily flow in a forward motion.
Brian Caldwell integrates all of these approaches in a seamless fashion, creating a work of multiple layers which holds up to several different interpretations and readings. These are not errors in syntax or structure, but calculated choices. For example, the final two paragraphs of the novel abruptly switch tense, not because the author is unaware of that switch, but because it personalizes the entire work, and creates an identification between the reader and Jimmy Lordan that the reader would probably rather avoid. When the main character ends one chapter in open quotations telling a story, and the next chapter begins with those same words, no longer in quotation, the effect is to underscore the subjectivity of a story told in first person tense. It hammers home the point that every single character is not seen in this novel objectively, but through Jimmy Lordan's highly subjective eyes- and further, through the author's eyes and more importantly, the reader's.
This is not a conventional novel, but I think people who are shaken by the writing are allowing their own expectations to cloud the actual quality. I would think that this would be intensified as this is supposed to be a 'Christian' novel, and as such, certain expectation accompany that. Expectations which Mr. Caldwell subverts. The theme of the novel is that we effectively use an assortment of lies and delusions to hide the truth about ourselves, both from the world and ourselves. God sees through all of those lies, and if we are to become close to God, we must also. Our comfortable, conventional ideas about ourselves are actually lies we have told to ourselves.
In constantly setting up expectations by use of multiple genre, tone, and structure, and then reversing those expectations, Mr. Caldwell's novel not only speaks to that truth, but creates the SENSATION of having those lies exposed.
Like all cutting edge work, from Miller to Camus to Buroughs to Bukowski, Mr. Caldwell's skill will initially be rejected and vilified by some. Don't be fooled, though, if you read this book, you are reading the beginnings of one of the next greats.