I really struggled with whether or not I should write a review of The Sending by Matt Koceich. I kept thinking of the old adage, "If you don't have anything good to say, then don't say anything." And while it isn't nearly that bad, I was severely tempted to simply let this one go. But there's an issue with this book that I felt I had to address, a fairly serious one. I'll get to that in a moment.
The other reason why I wasn't sure I should write a review because people might accuse me of sour grapes. The Sending was the winner of this year's Marcher Lord Select main contest. I was a participant who got eliminated in the first round. So some might think that jealousy might motivate what I'm about to say. Let me assure you, I'm not speaking out of anger or spite. This is simply how I see things.
The Sending is the story of Mark Grant, a young man with an extraordinary gift. He is a remote viewer; he can project himself away from his body. He's been hired as part of a project to find the Garden of Eden so humanity can finally partake of the Tree of Life and experience immortality.
Only Mark's ability and involvement in this project doesn't sit well with his wife, Aubrey. So Mark tries to back out of the project. When he does, his wife and son are kidnapped and he's told that if he wants to see them again, he'll have to finish what he started. He has to find the Garden or he will lose everything that matters to him.
So let's talk good stuff first: the premise is dynamite. A modern-day search for the Garden is a great story. In theory, Mark makes for an interesting character (what with his special ability) and based on the premise, this should be a good book. Unfortunately, the whole thing goes completely off the rails shortly after it starts.
The story is disjointed and confusing. I think Koceich was trying to do something similar to Ted Dekker's Circle trilogy, with two separate realities intermingling. Sadly, the attempt fails. The transitions happen for seemingly no reason and oftentimes, I had no idea what was going on.
The characters also didn't feel real. For me, the worst was Sam, Mark's 4-year-old son. I was beginning to wonder if Sam had some sort of speech impediment or developmental disability because of the way Koceich wrote his dialogue. "Scoy" for "score." "Luh you" for "love you." That sort of thing. I have a four-year-old at home and I asked him to repeat some of Koceich's dialogue. He was able to with clear enunciation. Sam sounded more like he was two than four.
Also problematic for me was the theology. I realize this is speculative fiction and I'm all for dancing on the end of a theological tree-branch at times, but this one really made me wince. Koceich weaves an odd take on Satan's temptation of Adam and Eve that really didn't sit well with me. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't care for it and thought it was a bit over-the-top.
But what really sent me through the roof was the blatant heresy that popped up in the book on more than one occasion. It would appear that Koceich has drifted into a trinitarian heresy known as modalism.
Let me give you an example: from page 136 of the book, Koceich writes, "John just thought that Iesus was Creator but not Father." Later in the book, Mark encounters Jesus and calls Him "Abba" and Jesus refers to Mark as "His son."
Small problem: Jesus is not the Father. This flies in the face of historic Christianity and is opposed by no less than the Athanasian Creed. Quite honestly, when I encountered that first statement, I was so disturbed I almost stopped reading. But I thought maybe it was a typo or an overstatement so I kept reading.
Now I don't know if Koceich meant to drift into a heresy rejected by the Church for the last 1,700 years or so, but I was not happy with this.
At the end of the book, Koceich seemed to be setting himself up for a potential sequel. If that's the case, I'm getting off here. Maybe there's an audience for this book, but it doesn't include me.