I wanted to start off 2020 differently in the sense that I wanted to read more. So after I got done reading the second book in the X-Men Chaos Engine series, I moved over to an author who I had wanted to read for quite a long time. However, I had never picked up one of his books. That author was John Saul. I went to the local used book shop here in my town and picked up The God Project.
In The God Project, you have two things going on at the same time. You have on one end the main character, Sally Montgomery, who loses her young daughter to SIDS (or that is what she was told). On the other side, you have Lucy Corliss and her problems with her son Randy who ends up running away. At first glance, it appears as if these two events are unrelated. But as the story progresses, you see that they are. You discover something sinister is going on behind the scenes. It has to do with a local doctor and a mysterious organization that surveys children called CHILD.
The story begins slow. The characters don’t jump off the page at you. What Saul does is focus more on the emotion of the scene to try and connect the reader with the character. He does this with mild success.
What Saul attempts to do is drive the story with suspense. It almost seems as if in every chapter, there’s not a cliffhanger, but it leaves you wondering how all these events are tied together. That curiosity compels you to continue. It’s what good suspense does. That is where I believe Saul shines.
One thing I thought was interesting was that Saul almost predicts the internet. He talks about computer use and when he does, so it’s in a way. That seems as if he knows how computers will be used in the future and he nails it. It was like an uncanny prophecy since the book was written in 1982. Either that or the guy really kept up on computers.
However, the slow start is a foreshadow of the downhill trajectory this book will soon take. There are signposts. They’re subtle at first, then blossom into a full-blown trainwreck.
To start, there were some anemic plot elements.
One glaring one was in chapter 21 when Randy Corliss is considering an escape plan from a CHILD facility where he’s being held. He hasn’t told anybody and runs into one of the supporting characters who work at the facility. In almost less than a minute after she finds him, she looks at him and figures out he is going to try to make a run for it. Just by looking at him. The way it was handled, it bordered on telepathy. She does this all based on pure intuition. Straight up contrived.
This also happened in chapter 29 when a police officer remembered seeing a van when at that time, it didn’t mention he had seen it. Very hokey.
The more I read, the more my dislike for the book grew. The editing either was horrid or the writing was bad. It was so egregious, it led me to believe it was both. Not only is there the overuse of extraneous adverbs, but the prolific inclusion of passive writing. What that does for the whole book is slow it way down. It’s not a book that moves. It meanders which produces a blah reader experience.
Another thing I noticed was that the secondary characters were mostly all male, weak (as in they needed a heavy dose of testosterone), evil, and/or idiots, for the most part. This was especially true of the husband of one of the main characters, Steve Montgomery. The guy didn’t know how to make a decision and I really felt like slapping him and tell him to carry himself like a man.
In comparison, the stronger characters are ALL female, decisive, smart, and/or empathic. I’m not sure what’s going on there. I like a good, strong female character. I just don’t like them at the expense of strong male characters.
After finishing this book, I can’t tell you how much I deplore it. The ending is dreadful. The characterization is weak. One-dimensional. You don’t feel anything for them except that they’re weak and pathetic. There were also some unresolved plot elements, like wrapping up how Susan’s daughter really died. I literally found myself saying aloud when I was close to the end, “I hate this book.”
The baffling thing is it was a bestseller.
Yeah. Don’t let that fool you.
There were small samples of Saul’s other work at the end that I avoided like the plague. This pretty much puts me in the category of never wanting to read another John Saul book again. The book gets a D though I wanted to give it an H for horrendous.