The Nephilim Seed
James Scott Bell
Broadman & Holman, 375 pages, $12.99
The Truth is Here
L. A. Marzulli
Zondervan, 458 pages, $12.99
"The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and they married any of them they chose . …The Nephilim were on the earth in those days . …"—Genesis 6:1-4.
This passage preceding the flood account in the Bible's first book is as thought-provoking as it is difficult to understand. Redaction critics fight over its composition. Almost everybody has a pet theory for how to identify the "sons of God" and "daughters of men." And any talented novelist takes one look at the passage and says, "You know, there's a story buried in there somewhere."
The two most recent novelistic excavators to pick up spade and put their literary backs to it are James Scott Bell, who won the Christy Award for Final Witness, and L. A. Marzulli, who (the back cover of his novel assures us) "possess[es] an in-depth knowledge of the topic of UFO cults." Surprisingly, Marzulli's effort proves the more worthwhile.
The Nephilim Seed uses Genesis 6 as a springboard into a spirited polemic against Bell's sworn enemy, Darwinists. (Bell also wrote The Darwin Conspiracy, which was blurbed by none other than chief Darwin critic Phillip E. Johnson.)
The story begins with the murder of a prominent Intelligent Design theorist on the verge of exposing Harvard Professor Bentley Davis.
Davis plans to use nanotechnology to alter people and drown out the "God part" of their brains. When evangelical Christian/lawyer/single mother Janice Ramsey's daughter Lauren is abducted for experimentation by Davis's goons, Janice decides to fight back. She teams up with one-eyed private investigator Jed Brown (brother of the murdered id theorist) and a cyber-anarchist Star Trek freak who goes only by the name of Data.
Their mission: Rescue Lauren, expose Davis, stop his Nephilim Seed from wiping out religion, and (for Jed and Data) get saved in the process.
It could have been a fun story, but Bell is out of his depth here. His prose is painful at times, the pace is off, the bad guys are too flat. And since he has no talent for writing female characters, one has to wonder at his choice of protagonist. So many "walls of ice" spring up in Janice's budding romance with and conversion of Jed that she could be a one-person solution to global warming.
Scripture Meets The X-Files
Patient readers of Nephilim: The Truth is Here, on the other hand, are in for a treat. Though no one would ever prize Marzulli's adverb-heavy prose, the story is so grand and so crazy that it provides quite the experience. The subtitle and X-Files homage cover are good indicators of the story to come.
Art "Mac" MacKenzie is a divorced, washed out—make that passed out—California newsman who still strings for a few papers to keep a roof over his head and to buy enough booze to drink himself to sleep two years after the tragic death of his son. While researching a routine puff piece about a new hospital, he discovers a woman who claims that little gray creatures impregnated her and took her hybrid baby. He believes her and writes the story, which somehow gets printed in a respectable outlet.
So begins a wild ride that takes him to Israel, New Mexico, and various points on the map. He learns of an ancient race of giants, or Nephilim, that were somehow the offspring of strange creatures intermingling with humans. After an unexplained absence, these creatures are back at it again with superior technology and the tacit cooperation of many governments. He also learns of a vast conspiracy to keep this brutal bargain a secret.
Despite their similarities, The Nephilim Seed and Nephilim emanate from two different kinds of theism. Bell's characters come in two temperaments: theistic rationalists and nontheistic rationalists. Any divine intervention coincides with the laws of nature and nature's God. Sometimes (as was the case with The Darwin Conspiracy) that works, but more often it falls flat.
Marzulli, on the other hand, is a frank supernaturalist. He gives us giant skeletons with a fifth nucleotide, little gray creatures who can shift through walls, cattle mutilation with genetic experimentation, ancient holy men with the power to heal people, and a spiritual conflict that makes Frank Peretti's first few offerings seem tame. It's the written equivalent of a spectacular 4th of July display, complete with marching band.
My primary concern is that some readers will take the ideas expressed in Nephilim as seriously as the author appears to take them. That would be a waste of a good novel.
Jeremy Lott is a contributing editor to Books & Culture and coauthor (with Lawrence VanBeek) of the forthcoming The Case for Enoch.
Copyright © 2002 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Previous Christianity Today reviews by Jeremy Lott include:
'I'm Not in It for the Money'The digital revolution created many wealthy tech-heads. What do they do now? (September 25, 2001)
Peretti's Past DarknessThe best-selling novelist describes the tormented childhood that shaped his imagination. (March 13, 2001)
Previous articles by Jeremy Lott for Christianity Today sister publication Books & Culture include:
Is Globalization Christian?Why the WTO protestors had it wrong. (Jan./Feb. 2002)
Neuroscience After NietzscheIs the brain a symphony orchestra without a conductor? (Nov./Dec. 1999)
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.