Reviewed by Catherine K. Arveseth
Three earthquakes have simultaneously torn apart the earth’s crust while the moon hangs “like a rusty coin, its silver brightness dimmed into bloody shadow.” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is 25 million strong, 1,000 Temples dot the face of the world, but despite the church’s growth, forces of evil have been expanding and seething. The Church has moved its headquarters from Salt Lake City to Independence, Missouri. Technological advances have soared, gasoline in some places costs a raging $10.00 per gallon, and civil strife in most nations is mounting. The Sixth Seal has finally closed and it has “closed with a bang.”
This is the setting of Jessica Draper’s first novel. It is a gripping, heart-pounding tale with intriguing characters of faith that boldly fight a demoralizing world of evil. Jessica Draper has based her novel on the prophecies of the last days with the expertise of Richard D. Draper, Director of the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University. Richard Draper has published several books on the Book of Revelation and other prophetic scripture, his most recent publication being The Savior’s Prophecies – a guide to understanding the Savior’s prophecies of the last days.
For Jessica Draper, however, this is her debut among LDS audiences. Readers will be thrilled with what she has to offer. Her style is smart, steely and explosive. Initially, her words were so compressed and tight; they were almost too much to get down in one swallow. But I quickly adjusted to the futuristic lingo and after several chapters, was wholly engrossed in the novel’s plot and people. The book sped forward, gaining momentum, and by the end I was hungry for a sequel.
Seventh Seal begins with a wide spread view of the horrific destruction upon continents, peeking briefly into the lives of several individuals. As the book accelerates, this perspective narrows, diving into the tiny worlds of two main characters that make decisions that will impact a nation. One of these characters is Merry Galen, a smart, quick-thinking LDS genetic scientist who discovers the truth about a vaccine that promises to thwart any and all diseases – the AllSafe vaccine. Merry and her equally brilliant husband Chris, learn that the corrupted Biotech company, MedaGen, deliberately chose not to publish studies that proved the AllSafe vaccine to have morbidly detrimental side effects. Merry and Chris risk their lives to disclose MedaGen’s insidious secret. Readers will journey with the young Galen family as they face dangers and personal trials of faith necessary to call down the powers of heaven to see them through.
Another main character, Salvatore Nakai, known to most of his buddies as “Dove”, is your typical gang member, caught up in a drug-running, mendacious way of life – the only life he and his brother Benny seem to know. They are Native American Indians, warring with other tribal gangs in the borderlands of the states and Mexico – a place known as “Amexica.” Dove becomes an unexpected hero – a Captain Moroni of his day. His tale is complete with plenty of “shoot-em-up” tough-guy scenes sure to keep any reader clutching the book and turning pages as fast as the eyes can go.
For a book rampant with unruly and unsavory characters, Jessica Draper has kept the language impeccably clean. Where one would expect an obscenity, she has creatively filled the sentence with…something else! Hats off to her witty language and savvy dialogue. She has fabricated a world of the last days that is extremely believable – not so far-fetched that readers cannot identify with its characters. In fact, it is startlingly real – a spin off of our downward spiraling society, a place where its people and challenges seem totally plausible.
Draper wisely avoids solidifying the story with an actual year or date. We only know it to be the opening of the Seventh Seal – some time in the future. She reminds the reader, “The doctrines and prophecies cited in this book are real, but the events in the story bear no intentional resemblance to any current or future persons, institutions or events (it’s a novel, not a prediction).” Draper does, however, tactfully provide the reader with a way to gauge time within the book. She does this through the heart-felt letters of a concerned father to his missionary son. The father, Chinedu, an employee of the Church, who recently moved his family to Independence, writes often to his son, Chisom, who is serving somewhere in Taiwan and Southern China. Chinedu is a scholar of the scriptures who consistently describes the state of the world through the prophet’s eyes – citing scripture and identifying the signs of the last days in meticulous detail. In this example, he writes to Chisom about Babylon, previously referencing Revelation 18.
Know this, son, nothing good ever comes out of Babylon. She always trades in human futures…what she is at the core is a philosophy that many, especially top brass in companies and rulers of peoples, find impossible to resist. They buy into her ways because she promises happiness, security and prosperity. She especially promises power and ultimately, salvation. She is the direct cause of much of the opposition the Church faces. Her captains are continually moving more openly and aggressively against the Church (which has been prophesied, see1 Nephi 13:8-9).
This novel of the last days is impressive in its length, structure and striking character development. Jessica Draper and Richard D. Draper have created an intense and exciting read that teaches the importance of having vigilant eyes to see the signs of the times for what they are. In the epigraph, we read, “Only the spiritually sensitive heard the cry of pain. It wasn’t quite a voice, more a feeling that translated itself into words coming from deep within the Earth: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me?'”
As the last days are most definitely upon us, the Seventh Seal is a book to be enjoyed by any Latter-day Saint. LDS fiction readers will want to hear more from Jessica Draper – her insights and creativity give us much to contemplate. Draper describes her writing as “speculative fiction” but “as for reality,” she says, “whatever actually happens, God is in charge, and everything will come out right.”