When the Archangel Michael sends two teenage boys on a tour of the universe, the boys find God in every place in John Senneff's The Apastron Reports. They find worlds of great variety from an all-water world to barren deserts to some similar to earth to the ante-room of hell. The worlds' residents vary too: leviathan, tiny people with no souls, a huge Adam, people like us, robots. On each world the boys find friendship, trouble, or adventure.
Senneff aims at boys, a much-ignored market in inspirational fiction, and the book should appeal to some junior high boys. I don't think the book will interest many girls because of the shallowness of the character development. Billy and Sam are static characters, and the relationships that they develop with the other characters are shallow. For instance, when a world inhabited by robots where the boys are visiting is attacked by a world of humans, the robotic world comes within seconds of being destroyed by a nuclear holocaust before the robots are able to reduce the human world to boulders. The boys respond to this destruction by asking if they can play around on the equivalent of four wheelers.
The slow beginning of the book and the slow beginning in most chapters will deter some readers. The first chapter is entirely talk with little suspense. As the boys' guides fill them in on the planet's history, most of the other chapters start with pages of dialogue before the adventure begins.
Senneff's plot lacks a unifying thread through it, such as a quest or a unifying conflict. Many of the internal chapters could be rearranged with very little rewriting without affecting the episodic plot. The only changes Senneff would need to make would be to rewrite the exit strategy from the planet in most cases or a few references to earlier chapters.
The boys face no overall conflict, only local conflicts, which Senneff has created well. Because of the lack of overall conflict, most of the characters, including Billy and Sam, do not inspire reader attachment. The boys face no driving passion for the trip, no threat though there's danger, no personal stake in the mission; it's more a stroll through the universe than a quest. The one character I found really interesting and regretted leaving was Tork the Turkin, a courageous little character who faces the reigning devil on his planet and remains true to God, though God has given him and his people no souls. Tork's problems make him the most interesting character in the book.
More troubling than the structural problems are some doctrinal problems. Whenever a writer takes a strong positional stand on a controversial topic, especially to children, he loses some readers. Senneff's strong position on theistic evolution and the day-age theory loses me as a purchaser. In his chapter where he takes the boys to "Eden," "Eve" has already died and "Adam" has to fight off some of his descendants who want to get to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Also, Senneff denies that the death God refers to in Genesis 2:17 is physical death, but claims it is spiritual death only (his day-age theory demands this). People in Paradise die and are born with birth defects.
Also, the angels and believers on some of the planets refer to God as the "Big Man," levity entirely inconsistent with the awe that the angels show to God in Scripture.
In the final chapter which occurs in an anteroom of the heaven and hell of the world, the characters make a stand for easy believism. Senneff makes it clear that there is no limbo for Christians on earth, but some of the characters on the planet of volcanoes are working off long stretches of sins because of their lives. However, they are going to heaven once their sins are worked off.
The Apastron Reports is extremely creative. Senneff could strengthen the plot by developing his characters more and unifying the book with conflict. However, many readers, myself included, will reject the story on the basis of the doctrinal positions. -- Debbie W. Wilson, Christian Book Previews.com
The Apastron Reports: Quest for Life, is a captivating story that makes extraterrestrial life seem quite possibleand perhaps even probable. Filled with intriguing characters and creatures, it offers a vision of Gods awesome presence throughout the universe. The two teen-age heroes in the book have exciting adventures with
Uno, the super robot who has downloaded all of the secrets of planet Earth and is preparing to fight humans living on planet Ipso
Leviathan, the malevolent monster of the Water World who encases his conquests in ice
Tork, the elfin Turkin who faces off against the evil angel, Oman, and witnesses the deciphering of a code that unlocks the secret of an ancient space vehicle
Pepi, the twisted spiritual leader who would lead his followers to disaster in a war of annihilation he alone has planned, and
the cruel and grasping Elders on the disc planet Gravis Minor who run the country Janus as if they personally owned it.