Audiobook Review: The Knowledge of Good & Evil by Glenn Kleier

11 07 2012

The Knowledge of Good and Evil by Glenn Kleier

Read by MacLeod Andrews

Produced by Glenn Kleier (Print from Tor Books)

Length: 16 Hrs and 21 Min

Genre: Thriller

Quick Thoughts: The Knowledge of Good & Evil is part Dan Brown, part Dante Alighieri with a dash of Flatliners thrown in for flavor. It is a fun religious based thriller that asks interesting questions while providing enough open ended answers to allow readers to make up their own minds about what is real and what is delusion.

Grade: B+

When I was a kid, I was a part of my church’s AWANA club, and a big part of that club was memorizing scripture. I have a lot of biblical tidbits stuck in my head. One of my favorites comes from Hebrew "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I have always appreciated this idea. I believe that I am a person of faith, but it’s a faith I have struggled with and battled against and eventual come to a sort of uncomfortable detente with. Yet, the passage from Hebrews was always important to me, because it convinced me that arguing points of faith is a fool’s game. I love talking theology, but arguing with someone trying to prove to me their faith based position defies the definition of the word. I work with a lot of religious people who enjoy engaging in religious debate. Often, when I have expressed my beliefs about evolution, it triggers the response, "If humans evolved from monkeys, why aren’t monkeys turning into people now" often accompanied by a chorus of "Yeahs" and high fives from friends. Now, I could applaud this persons understanding of how evolution works, or point out that indeed, things are evolving on earth everyday, but again, I remind myself that his faith based belief is by definition improvable, and arguing about it is pointless. I highly doubt God and his Angles yell "Booyah" and do taunting endzone dances pointing at Darwin and his science cronies every time someone in a religious debate scores a point. Yeas ago, Glenn Kleier wrote an interesting novel about how the world would react to a new Messiah, called The Last Days. Now he’s back with another interesting thought experiment. How would the world react if you could prove to a scientific certainty that the afterlife existed?

Ian Barringer has had a missing part in his life ever since his parents died in a tragic accident when he was a child. He spends much of his life trying to heal himself through faith, and the church even becoming a priest. Yet, his faith is fragile and betrayed and eventually he begins to put his life back together with the help of his girlfriend Angela Weber. When a brutal reminder of his parent’s death sends him on a downward spiral, he begins to follow the path of a controversial priest who believed he traveled to the afterlife and discovered God’s ultimate reality. Yet this path puts his life in danger, both physically and from a secret element of The Church whose roots go all the way to the papacy. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is a hard novel to truly evaluate. Religion is always a sticky and personal subject, and for this novel you need some level of fascination with religion, yet the ability to keep an open mind on the subject. For me, I was fascinated with the concepts that Glenn Kleier was tackling. Kleier examines Christian mythology and church history in an accessible way that combines pop culture elements along with the rich history of faith. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is part Dan Brown, part Dante Alighieri with a dash of Flatliners thrown in for flavor. On top of this, The Knowledge of Good & Evil is a competent international chase thriller. Sure, Ian and Angela make some frustrating decisions for a couple trying to evade a far reaching shadowy organization, but this is more of a reflection of me having read too many thrillers than a breach of realism. The Knowledge of Good & Evil is full of good set ups and fascinating reveals, although one major reveal, for me at lest, wasn’t as earth chattering as I was being set up to believe it would be. Part of this is due to the fact that many of the characters in this book were defined by their religion and anything that shakes their belief structure would seem earth shattering to them. Luckily, Angele played a sort of Scully to Ian’s Mulder giving the book a necessary skeptical grounding. Where The Knowledge of Good & Evil really excels is in Ian’s travels through the afterlife, both as visually stunning fiction, as well as a compelling thought experiment. I have a weakness for hell based fiction ever since reading Dante’s Inferno and Kleier creates one of the more devastatingly brutal and darkly beautiful visions of the afterlife that I have read in a while. Not everything in The Knowledge of Good & Evil works, and there are some stutter steps along the way, but overall it is a fun, religious based thriller that asks interesting questions while providing open ended answers. Kleier allows the reader to do the grunt work of deciding what was real and what was delusion without forcing any sort of agenda on the reader.  For those who enjoy complex religious themes as well as good thriller full of international settings and hidden secrets will have a good time with this novel.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of MacLeod Andrew’s work as a narrator. One thing I love about his work is his voice isn’t the typical narrator voice. It’s not a deep, booming testosterone rich bass voice, nor is it a silky smooth tenor. Andrew’s voice is full of gravel and grit, and he manages to take his voice and make it suit the text he is reading just right. Here, Andrews brings the story alive, able to take on a cast full of international accents as well and otherworldly beings. Andrews manages to bring a true authenticity to his characters whether they are a Slavic priest, or a denizen of the deepest pits of hell. Andrews moves the plot along well with his crisp pacing that smoothed out any of the roughness of the story. His pacing is fast enough to create tension, while not so fast that it muddles the action. The true highlight for me was Andrews handling of heaven and hell, managing to make Angels sound Angelic while making the demons totally creepy. Really, it was a lot of fun taking a journey like this with a talented narrator.

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One response

14 07 2012
DevourerofBooks (@DevourerofBooks)

This sounds like a really engaging story!

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