Thomas Creedy, a blogger and amateur theologian, takes an honest look at Complete Darkness, the new novel by Church Urban Funds' Matt Adcock.
Trigger warning - this book contains extreme violence, speculative demonology, worryingly possible future scenarios, strong language, and lots of things Christians thoroughly disapprove of.
One of the dangers of being the sort of person who reads books and has friends is that when a friend writes a book they have an expectation that a) you'll read their book, b) you'll review their book and c) you'll recommend their book. The friend in question is Matt Adcock, known in the underbelly of the Christian world as a Machiavellian Comms genius, gamer and film reviewer.
He used to work at LST where he absorbed some theology and also had a long enough commute to read/watch a vast number of things. He now works at Church Urban Fund, so with those credentials it's reasonable to expect that some Christians will take an interest in his first novel, Complete Darkness, hence this honest review.
As someone who reads a lot of military science fiction I'm not squeamish but some of the violence, which occasionally reaches Old Testament levels (think Ehud, or perhaps Joshua) in this book did make my stomach churn. I was also shocked and nearly appalled by the treatment of people - if you don't like Game of Thrones, then this is worse. But is that extreme darkness all there is to this book? Is that all there is to Matt's twisted universe?
Not at all. Probably the most interesting aspect of Complete Darkness is the interplay of science, market forces, and religion. It's quite difficult to explain without reading the book, but basically the future sketched out is one where all religions are rolled into one - a kind of worst-case-scenario of the contemporary ecumenical movement. This shapes the characters in different ways - from the villain to the anti-hero, and most people in between. Skirting around the edges of these themes are mind-altering drugs, the insanity of creating a clone of men's perfect woman, and some hilarious (as in, I snorted out loud on the bus, prompting strange looks) usage of technology and wordplay.
I think complete darkness is a creative introduction to a genuinely interesting alternate universe. If you don't like sci fi, action or post-apocalyptic writing, you might struggle. But, if like me, you do, you might see beyond the brash, comic-book level (think Deadpool unhinged rather than Marvel) of violence. This might also not be an issue for Christians who like honest portrayals - even those that are brutally so - on the big and little screen in the name of realism, and don't care for a Hallmark depiction of life. There were after all many Christians sitting down to watch Game of Thrones!
There is certainly intelligent world-building here, some genuinely clever mechanics and characters, and a flawed hero who is interesting enough to me to want to read more about him.
Matt's a big boy so he probably won't mind me writing that I can't in good conscience recommend this book to anyone squeamish, or arguably in possession of a fully-functioning conscience. That said, I will definitely be reading the sequels. When the inevitable tv adaptation comes out, I'll probably watch it from behind the sofa. Unless it all comes true, in which case, 'I'll be damned'.
If you want to experience Complete Darkness for yourself it is available to pre-order at Waterstones and Amazon.