Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: "Virgin", by F. Paul Wilson

Virgin (Borderlands Press, 2007; 309 pages), by F. Paul Wilson, is an odd book.

This is not a criticism, just a statement of fact. I can’t remember the last time I read a book where it took so long to figure out where it was going. Again, not a bad thing, although I did nearly give up on it about a quarter of the way in, just because I wasn't sure what the writer was up to.

It starts out with the discovery, in 1991, of an ancient manuscript in the wilderness of Israel. Some years later, two manuscripts surface, written in an archaic form of Aramaic, seemingly authentic...until it turns out that the words were written with ink that was only a few years old.

One of the manuscripts, along with a translation of the text, ends up in the hands of a Roman Catholic priest in New York, given to him by a friend who thinks he will get a kick out of it. But there is a Shin Bet agent who is after the manuscripts, and he is willing to kill to get them back.

Who is the agent? Why does he want the forged manuscripts so badly? What or who is he protecting? And who is he, really?

There is much more to the story, including a US Senator with aspirations to the presidency with secrets of his own and a nun who is determined to find what the priest’s manuscript says is hidden. To say much more than that would be to take all the fun out of the reading of this novel.

It would be easy to say that Wilson set out, in Virgin, to out-Dan Brown Dan Brown. And there is an element of that to the novel. But Wilson takes a different, much more original tack to the genre than Dan Brown could ever have managed.

I do have to say that I didn't find the resolution to the novel to be completely satisfying, but that has to do with my own personal outlook and not with anything in the storytelling. And, the quibble I have with it is so small within the whole that it didn't bother me enough to ruin my enjoyment of the reading experience as a whole, considering that the larger message was something that had me nodding my head in agreement as I read the last few pages of the book.

I've not read anything by Wilson before, but on the strength of my experience in reading Virgin, I suspect that I will be seeking out more of his work.

No comments: