Review #18: The Calling by Robert Swartwood

I actually have a lot to say about this book which certainly says something, I’m just not sure what. Before that though, I have a nifty story to tell. After writing my second review of Robert Swartwood’s work, No Shelter, Swartwood himself posted comments on my reviews! I geeked out totally, emailed him, and we had a couple email exchanges where I got to ask questions about his writing process, as well as the online publishing process. It was all very cool, and he was very gracious and down to earth. He also sent me the e-versions of two of his newer novels “The Calling” and “The Dishonored Dead.” I put off reading them to add some variety to my reading list and reviews, but decided it was finally time.

One of my biggest criticisms of the other three Swartwood books I’d read was that he seemed to be stuck in one archetypal tale–that of the protagonist’s loved ones getting kidnapped and the protagonist having to go above and beyond to find them. Well, The Calling certainly does not follow that format, so it was exciting to read something totally different from him.

In The Calling, 18 year-old Chris Myers wakes up the morning after his high school graduation to find his parents brutally murdered. The local police believe Chris is a target so he goes to stay with his grandmother in the town of Bridgton, NY. Here he meets a strange young teenager, Joey, and his father, Moses. From Amazon: Soon Christopher learns of the town’s deep dark secret, and how his parents’ murder was no accident, and how he has been brought to Bridgton by forces beyond his power — forces that just may threaten the destruction of all mankind.

The story is told from Chris’ first person perspective, and for a teenager character he is very well-drawn. He is not overly mature or precocious, and feels like a teenager, yet someone who is articulate, interesting, and relatable. Despite going through a horrific trauma, Chris keeps chugging along, doing what he can to keep himself together. When faced with the truth given to him by Joey and Moses, he never doubts for too long, and simply keeps chugging along. In fact, his only strong emotional reactions come when he discovers that Moses lied to him which seems about right.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel for its overall storyline and fast-paced action. Also, it caused my reader’s mind to stretch a bit. Early on I was wondering if it was a religious book but that did not fit with what I knew of Swartwood’s work. It became quickly clear (through language and violence) that this was not religious material, yet discussions of God, Satan, angels, demons, good, evil, continued throughout. There was no preaching about these things, rather they were presented as additional characters and it quickly became given that the novel is set in a world where these things are a given. I also struggled with whether the book was young adult or not. The protagonist is a teenager, as are many of the characters he interacts with, yet again, the language, violence, and sexual content do not fit in with what I think of as a Young Adult novel. Overall, the latter is not particularly important. Swartwood is an author with a creative and exciting mind, and I am looking forward to reading The Dishonored Dead (an atypical zombie novel).