God's Army (book)
Andrew R. Hall
Excel Entertainment, 2001. Trade paperback:
Suggested retail price: $14.95 (US)
I didn't enjoy this book too much, and I think the main reason is that the genre/concept of a film novelization holds no interest for me, something I didn't realize until afterwards. Part of fun of reading a novel for me is the mystery of the unknown, the tension of not knowing what is coming next. Having seen the film of God's Army first, there was none of that tension reading the book, and so it never really held my attention. I certainly have read and enjoyed original novels after seeing the film upon which they were based, I guess the films change things enough in all of those cases that there was still that unknown factor. But film novelizations appear to be required to follow the exact story line of the film, just with more background provided. I enjoyed reading some of the inner world of the missionaries (and investigators) that Card provides, but in the end that wasn't enough to draw me in.
Within the limits of what I now see as a boring concept, Card does an adequate job. He fleshes out the motivations for the dour central character, Elder Allen, making the character more interesting. I also liked his portrayal of Elder Kinegar, the reader of anti-church literature. He enters the head of Elder Dalton (Pops) only a few brief times, probably because there is another novel based on that character coming up (we do at least see the "throwing away the pills" scene through Dalton's POV). Card spends a lot of time explaining some of the things that struck people as not true to life in the movie, like Allen not being able to tie a tie on his first day, why the mission president is so gruff in the beginning, etc. The explanations are interesting, but sometimes interfere with the flow of the story. Another problem I had was the long interior dialogues that Card gives his characters in the time frame of just a few seconds between lines in the film. He does create a few non-film scenes to give the characters greater depth, maybe more of them would have helped.
One thing I really liked was how he portrayed the "healing of Benny" scene through the POV of Brother Rose, the eternal investigator who can't stop drinking coffee. It made what could have came out as schmaltzy or false if portrayed through the eyes of the Elders or Benny, and made it more interesting. It also made the next scene, where Rose throws away his coffee, more than just a joke.
So, not bad, but not so great either. Still, it is an important work in that it is the first novel published by Excel Entertainment, the distributor of the movie. They list at least two more upcoming books, One Soul, by J. Scott Bronson, about Elder Dalton, and Burden of Faith, by Deanne Savage-Blackhurst, about Sister Fronk. Brent Rowley is the editor of the series. Since Card already covered the basic novelization, I hope that these works will not just repeat the film story from different perspectives, but instead create mostly new stories for these characters.
© 2002 Andrew R. Hall