PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 01, 2012
was tremendously excited to receive The New Recruit, having heard nothing but praise for its author, Jill Williamson. The book’s publisher, Marcher Lord Press, too, only underscored my assurance that I was in for a thrilling read. They always set the standard extremely high for their authors.
Sadly, my excitement turned to confusion, and then to concern as I read The New Recruit.
The New Recruit is a Christian supernatural-spy story, and because it straddles these extremely different genres, it quickly develops problems. Before going any further, I want to say that Jill Williamson deserves a lot of credit for trying to blend those genres, and she handles characters extremely well.
However, The New Recruit has two large flaws. The first is denominational/theological, and the second is story mechanics. Due to the dual nature of the book, I’m going to separate this review and look first at the denominational /theological issues I have with what she wrote, and then address the book’s plot issues.
In The New Recruit, Spenser, the narrator, takes spiritual gifts assessment as part of a team building exercise. He is not a believer but discovers he rates high with the gift of prophecy and of discernment. He has already been having odd dreams, but after the test not only do his prophetic dreams continue, he has “flashes” of what is going to happen. This seriously threw me, as I have always believed that the gifts of the Holy Spirit belong to Him, and you can not possess them without having Him physically indwell you. I did a quick search through my Bible to see if I could find anything to support for her writing the gifts this way, and came up empty handed.
Nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever revealed to possess spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit before becoming a Christ-follower.
That is the main theological problem I have with The New Recruit, but it isn’t the only one.
Several times intercessors are referenced as receiving information for the Christian spy organization, including during Spenser’s recruitment. They receive messages from God and then pass them onto others in the organization. Williamson explains that the intercessors God given info is cross-checked for accuracy, but this whole idea struck me as odd.
I believe any Christian can pray for another, any Christian can intercede before the Lord on another’s behalf. Intercession is a powerful weapon as well as a sacred and intimate time between a believer and Christ. The way that Williamson portrayed intercession in The New Recruit made it seem like just one more spy-tool to gather information, and the people who were praying just a different kind of satellite receiver.
Those are the theological and doctrinal problems I had with The New Recruit, now, onto some of the things I liked, and some of the things I didn’t, in the mechanics of its story.
The amazing thing about The New Recruit is the main character, Spenser. He isn’t just a paper tiger. Spenser is real, so real that I could hear him breathing and catch the pace of his pulse between the sentences.
Jill Williamson understands the way that teen boys think, and Spenser’s love of basketball and skeptical view of Christianity are extremely well written. The other thing that is admiral about Spenser, is his intelligence. Every time I had a question about how something was going to work in this Christian spy organization, Spenser beat me to it, asking what I was thinking myself. Unfortunately for both of us, the Christians in the book either answer with a “that’s the way it is” which is incredibly unsatisfying, or pull out the ‘that’s classified’ retort.
Spenser has a lot thrown at him in the first one hundred pages of the book ; his mother was murdered, his father is a traitor, his name isn’t really Spenser (it’s Jonas), the police officer who keeps busting him is actually his uncle, and the missions group at his school is actually a spy team.
Despite the shocking secrets, those first one hundred pages are a slow read. It takes until the missions team/spy group is in Russia for the pace to pick up anywhere near thriller level.
This book doesn’t work on a variety of levels, but even with the critical failure of plot and theology, Jill Williamson is impressive in her character development and voice. I’ll certainly give one of her other books a read.