Crusader perched like a gargoyle on a second floor ledge across from the safe house’s entrance. He ignored the rain pouring down his face even though it blurred his vision. The weather didn’t matter. Neither did his posture. God created him to execute the Ministrix’s justice. Soon he would fulfill his ordained purpose.
The building across the street from him consumed his attention. It was unremarkable in its construction, a four story box made of standard terracrete. Its dull beige exterior matched that of its neighbors, making the entire block look like a row of rotten teeth. Low bushes lined the front of the building. To the untrained eye, the building would appear to be a simple apartment building or maybe an office complex. But Crusader knew better. He could see the subtle way the front entrance had been reinforced, or the forcefield emitters tucked into the windows in case of siege. No, this was no ordinary building. It was a Praesidium safe house and his prey was inside.
John W. Otte. Numb (Kindle Locations 24-31). Marcher Lord Press. Kindle Edition.
I blitzed through John W. Otte‘s futuristic speculative novel, Numb, during a couple sick days earlier this month. It was at the top of the stack already, I was going to read it, ill or not, and it was the perfect reading material to distract me from the ickies.
Crusader is an assassin. Or, as some might have it, a minister of divine justice. He’s the best. Not only does he complete his assignments with brutal efficiency, he feels no pain — emotional or physical.
He serves the Ministrix, a religious governmental entity that portrays Christ as having come down from the Cross to visit vengeance on His enemies. Anyone who believes otherwise is a heretic to be punished.
All Crusader knows or remembers is his service to the Ministrix. He has never questioned the rightness of what he does.
Then he receives a strange set of orders: Kill Isolda Westin, and do it in public.
Whenever he sees her image, there are thoughts and sensations he cannot explain.
What’s so special about an obscure engineer? And why break protocol by killing her where everyone can see?
And why is he suddenly reluctant to obey?
Otte handles the action scenes and the suspense well, and I had no trouble following the story or keeping track of the characters.
I figured out — or, at least, strongly suspected — a few twists before they were revealed, and experienced that strange sense of superiority the occurs when one unravels a secret before the characters do.
And then the realization hit: I was feeling all smug because I’d out-thought a bunch of fictional individuals.
Yes, well, ahem.
The novel is written from an unabashed Christian point of view, but it’s not all “come to Jesus”. It shows how religion can be skewed and outright twisted to oppress and imprison, and how truth can set free. I appreciated the juxtaposition.
Crusader’s numbness being breached by a particular person reminded me of a couple characters — Nathan and Audrey — in a popular SyFy show, Haven, but Otte does not borrow from that storyline. Numb is its own entity. If there’s any story that Numb strongly resembles, it’s the story of Saul in the New Testament. A Pharisee, Saul persecuted the Early Church, harassing Christians and imprisoning them, thinking he did the will of God.
Until God Himself stood in Saul’s path and turned his life around.
I enjoyed the book, and thought the story was well told. However, I did occasionally trip over word choices or phrasing — alluring grin, for instance — or dangling pronouns, so I was pulled out of the story whenever I had to figure out who was speaking or doing something.
Were I giving a score, Numb is a strong 4 out of 5 stars.
This post is part of the CSFF Blog Tour for April. For other opinions on the novel, visit these other stops on the tour:
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rachel Starr Thomson