Craig Davidson has long been a favorite of mine so I was happy that ChiZine Publications was releasing another book by him under his pseudonym Nick Cutter. The debut novel for the name, “The Troop,” was interesting and I was expecting “The Acolyte” to be even better since it was a ChiZine novel.
Jonah Murtag is a police officer in New Bethlehem. He is also an Acolyte. It is his job to ensure that there are no heretics in his city. He is tasked with destroying anything, or anyone, who does not follow the official religion of the government. When the church had taken control of the state, it had determined that only its religious practices would be tolerated and anything else is a crime. The problem is that people will not give up their faith that easily even when faced with imprisonment or death.
When a series of bombings begins to plague the city, all sentiments turn against a group of religious fanatics that had been spreading their own version of faith to anyone that would listen. The city appeared to be on the verge of an all-out war between the true believers and those that they had tried to suppress. Murtag’s investigation into the bombing suggests that there could be something else, something much bigger and more insidious, at play than just simple militant actions by the unbelievers. Now Murtag must act to save the world that he knows even though he is beginning to no longer believe in the religion that he once held as truth.
“The Acolyte” is a bit of a departure for Cutter as it is not a horror story although there are some truly horrific things that happen in the novel. This book is more along the lines of what I would expect from Craig Davidson rather than Cutter or Davidson’s other pseudonym, Patrick Lestewka. “The Acolyte” takes place in a world that is not too far removed from our own and is more of a science fiction tale of a world in which religion has become the politics of the world. Religious fanaticism of any type can lead to extremes and Cutter unleashes this force upon the page in a way that makes the reader cringe while still relating with the characters and giving a deeper understanding of what motivates people to take action through faith. The novel seems to be an extremely timely tale of the bastardization of faith as the few use the beliefs of the many as a means to achieve their own twisted ends with little consideration for the faithful that they crush under their feet. Faith is one of the most powerful forces in the world today and Cutter brings this to the forefront of the novel in a way that is sure to make the reader cringe at times.
“The Acolyte” is a novel full of social commentary while never feeling that way. Cutter uses the story to illuminate the dark side of faith as well as what compels people to be the way they are. Is faith something that is innate in all of us or a product of the environment? The answer is not clear but it is clear that Cutter feels that faith is something that can be twisted and perverted by the environment. It is not an easy book to read and will force the reader to look within and examine his own beliefs but it is well worth the time it takes to read it. “The Acolyte” is very well-written and a lot of thought went into crafting the story. It is a tale that will make the reader cringe and question but one that flows smoothly through even the roughest of scenes as it rockets through the twisted world of an alternate future. Or maybe it is set solely in the twisted landscape of the human mind. “The Acolyte” is recommended for anyone looking for a great read and enough courage to face some of the darkest corners of the human condition.
I would like to thank ChiZine Publications and NetGalley for this review copy. “The Acolyte” is available now.