An engrossing novel…but the ending, and the solution to the puzzle, fall flat.
I read Andy Andrews’ novel, The Final Summit, with great interest. The story reintroduces David Ponder, the main character from Andrews’ previous novel, The Traveler’s Gift (which I have not read). Decades after his time travel adventures in the previous novel, David is again visited by the archangel Gabriel, who informs him that he (David) has been selected as the leader of a summit of time travelers (many of the others being famous historical figures). The purpose of the summit is for the participants to come up with the correct answer to the question: “What does humanity need to do, individually and collectively, to restore itself to the pathway toward successful civilization?” (p. 67). The stakes are high — Gabriel informs David and the other summit members that the future of humanity depends on them coming up with the right solution.
I would love to be a spectator at the summit which Andrews’ imagination has conjured up. How incredible it would be to just sit and listen as historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Joan of Arc, George Washington Carver, and Anne Frank debate the essential elements of human nature and the betterment of our world. (I suppose some might criticize Andrews for choosing mostly American and European individuals as members of his summit, but I think that’s natural given that he’s writing to an American audience.) The conversations that take place during the summit were fascinating to me. I had to discipline myself not to look to the end of the novel to find the solution that the characters at last decided upon. Then I finally reached the ending — and the novel fell flat. I won’t reveal the solution, but I will say that the answer, which the archangel Gabriel approved as the “correct” one, is completely devoid of any reference to humanity’s need for God (or Christ).
I should mention here that I am an avid reader of all kinds of books, fiction and nonfiction, “Christian” and “secular.” I am not someone who believes that a book must have an overtly Christian message to be of value, as entertainment or even as instruction. But this isn’t just any book — this is a novel in which the characters are trying to decide what humanity NEEDS. In my opinion (and I realize many readers of this review may disagree), what humanity needs is Jesus. I suppose that, because the publisher, Thomas Nelson, is a Christian publisher, and because this imagined summit takes place in what seems to be heaven, I was expecting a very different ending. And it seems strange that Gabriel, who describes himself several times in the book as a “servant of God,” ends by accepting a humanist/postmodern solution to the puzzle in which God is absent. I also think that, even if I were not a Christian, the characters’ eventual solution would seem inadequate to me, especially given the thought-provoking discussion which preceeds it. My reaction was basically: “Huh? That’s IT?”
I’ve never read a book by this author before, but judging from this example, I think he’s a very gifted writer. Too bad he’s missed the point.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”