Soulsaver by James Stevens-Arce

I first heard of James Stevens-Arce and his novel Soulsaver back in 2001 through his presence on the Horror Author’s Network forum. He was a very friendly guy, had a feature-packed website, and he was also one of the few among us who had sold a novel to one of the big publishers: Harcourt. I was saddened several years later to hear that the novel’s first edition (in hardcover) had been remaindered, which means that the publisher has decided to sell all remaining stock dirt-cheap and move on. However, the good news was that I was now able to buy novel affordably from the opposite side of the Atlantic.

I was intrigued by the theme of Soulsaver from the beginning: a future America (2099), where the Church and State are one. I was also keenly aware that the novel was satire. As a Christian, I bought the novel with the feeling that it might offend me in some way. Heck, most stuff in television, film and literature is an offense to Christian principles on some level, so I wasn’t expecting anything different from a novel where Christianity is under a spotlight.

Well, I’m delighted to report that my fears were unfounded. Soulsaver is an excellent novel. It paints a picture of televangelism gone mad. The only thing it points the finger at is all the shallow entertainment we see around us that passes for religious devotion. I expected atheism to be touted as the answer to all of man’s problems, but the novel surprised me in suggesting that, yes, underneath all this hullabaloo God is real, and yes there is a right way to follow him, a way that hardly anyone chooses, because it involves loving people with a kind of love that is active – more than just feeling. The story blew me away when it went in this direction.

I’ve barely mentioned the thrust of the story. It’s all about a young man who works for the Suicide Prevention Corps of America, driving a van that picks up suicide victims in order to resurrect them by some technological means. He’s a typical hip Christian, unaware that he is about to embark upon a quest that will peel away the false religion from him and offer him something real instead.

You’d think this book would have been marketed as Christian fiction, but there are actually some elements that I think would have prevented a Christian publisher taking it on. I can’t say what they are without spoiling the story, but what I will say is that if you’re a fundamentalist, you will probably be offended. Personally, nothing in it bothered me. I let it be what it was – fiction – and the only thing I took to heart was the subtext.

Christians who like sci-fi, go get this. There are no plans for a paperback release, but there are copies of this first edition hardcover floating around eBay regularly, going for next to nothing. Place your bid, I bid thee!